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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2003)

Kevin: I'll stay home alone. I've done it before!
Kate: Don't remind me.

- Michael Weinberg, Clare Carey

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: September 02, 2003

Stars: Michael Weinberg, French Stewart, Missi Pyle
Other Stars: Jason Beghe, Joanna Going, Erick Avari, Clare Carey
Director: Rod Daniel

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cartoon violence)
Run Time: 01h:23m:52s
Release Date: September 02, 2003
UPC: 024543087069
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ FB-B- D-

DVD Review

I'm not exactly a huge fan of the Home Alone movies, but I can see why they were so popular. John Hughes and Chris Columbus created a movie mix with mass-market appeal, a blend of cute kids, family togetherness treacle, and violent slapstick. Of the first three films, those directed by Columbus are the best—his crude sense of humor equaled only by his talent for manipulating audiences through hollow sentiment. Home Alone 3, directed by Columbus protégée Raja Gosnell, kept the mean-spirited humor of the previous films and did away with much of the family angst. Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House goes in the opposite direction—the slapstick scenes are few and far between, but there is plenty of sit-com level familial drama. Considering the movies are theoretically supposed to be funny, I don't know if that was the best idea.

It's Christmas again, and whiney little Kevin McCallister (Michael Weinberg, stepping in for Macaulay Culkin and Alex D. Linz) still isn't over the divorce of his parents (Jason Beghe and Clare Carey) . His dad, meanwhile, has traded up—his new fiancée (Joanna Going) is even wealthier than he is. After a fight with his mom, Kevin runs off to stay with his dad and future stepmother, and smack-dab into the middle of a plot to capture the crown prince (sigh) hatched by criminal couple Vera (Missi Pyle, Bringing Down the House) and a recast Marv (French Stewart... sigh).

The Home Alone films have always displayed a disturbing streak of classism (something about an intellectually superior, rich, white kid defending his home from lower-class invaders), and in this fourth film, it is even more gratuitous. Dad's girlfriend is ultra-rich, and her futuristic, automated house shames even the McCallister's palatial Evanston mansion. The spoiled Kevin is given everything he could ever want, including a fantastic room full of TVs and games and a remote controlled plane, but he still mopes because his parents aren't together. Because this is a movie, the stepmother is evil to Kevin, but only, of course, when his dad isn't looking. It's all so sad, I tell you. If I were Kevin, I'd be crying myself to sleep atop a pile of money and PlayStations.

The family crises of the series have always felt a bit forced, but they usually took a backseat to the capers of the criminals, and Kevin's convoluted booby traps and tricks that kept them from getting into the house. But in Taking Back the House, the crooks don't even show up until some 40 minutes in, and Kevin, obviously running out of ideas after two sequels, can't come up with any better way to stop them than hitting them over the heads with a big pot, a far cry from the Rube Goldberg contraptions that made the first few movies worth watching.

The acting is fairly flat across the board (French Stewart is billed first, which is a warning sign if ever I've seen one). Michael Weinberg is an irritating pint-sized hero, aping Culkin's mannerisms but possessing none of his charm. The movie premiered on The Wonderful World of Disney, and director Rod Daniel never elevates it above the level of a mediocre made-for-TV movie. The production values are laughable, and the zany sound effects, constant wipes between scenes, and the wretched synth soundtrack do nothing to better the dull script.

Home Alone: Taking Back the House's most egregious offense is the fact that Kevin is never once actually home alone. Or maybe not—maybe it's the utterly false family reunion at the end, since not even divorced parents are alone in this movie. In fact, the only thing alone about it is the fact that I'm alone in my pain—I couldn't get anyone else to watch with me.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: F


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: This TV movie is offered in both full frame and 1.78:1 widescreen, and both transfers look about the same. Both feature bright, flat colors, which look pretty but lack depth. Black level isn't really an issue, nor is grain. Though I didn't seen any print flaws, there are quite a few compression artifacts and some very distracting aliasing on complex patterns.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in both DD 2.0 and 5.1 surround. Both tracks sound very much the same, though the 5.1 mix features more separation across the front soundstage, anchoring speech in the center and highlighting sound effects with a few instances of directionality and panning. The surrounds are more or less mute throughout, except for a few showy effects, as when Kevin's remote control plane flies across the screen.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Home Alone 3
Packaging: Scanavo variant
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extras are trailers for the three previous Home Alone features, which mock you for buying this disc over one of them.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

There isn't enough substance in the Home Alone concept to support two movies, let alone four. Taking Back the House is too lazy even to copy the formula, and instead plugs a few weak slapstick jokes into a saccharine after-school special about divorce. Skip it; the kids can see plenty of cartoon violence on the evening news.


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