While 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' features a (mostly recycled) John Williams score, and no soundtrack, Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle With You would make quite an appropriate song choice, considering the film's cover (and poster) art tell the tale of the entire movie.
Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin) doesn't know why he came to New York City tonight, and he's got the feeling that something's not right. He's so scared of the escaped bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), despite the fact that they're total dim wits. Mugs to the left of him, hobos to the right, here he is: stuck on the screen with you...for two hours of repetitive nonsense that refuses to capture the magic of the first film, and would rather just ride on its coattails.
'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' doesn't strive to work as a standalone film, and rather than be unique, standing on its own two feet, it harkens back to every single element of the surprise blockbuster that preceded it. What's curious about that is the fact that 'Home Alone' was written over a weekend, and this film had to have had more time to figure out details when the call came to capitalize on the worldwide success of the series.
The setting may have changed, and the stakes raised, but again, the story is the same. Kid gets lost, this time by a mishap at the airport (that's right, he made it there this time!), and instead of being stuck at home, he's in a strange new place: the strangest (and biggest) place of them all. Instead of being unknowns, the Wet Bandits are fresh prison escapees, who arrive in New York in a fish truck. Instead of a scary old man with a shovel, we have a scary old woman with a ton of pigeons, and rather than protecting his home, Kevin must protect a good willed toy store by luring the bandits to his uncle's under renovation home, again thwarting them with destructive means.
The difference? 'Home Alone 2' is far more mean spirited than the previous film, and judging by the changes in Kevin, I wouldn't be surprised if he grew up to be Jigsaw of 'Saw' fame. He sets the traps that get meaner and more destructive as they go along. He shows no concern for the health of those he sets up. He enjoys watching them suffer as he is doing what he feels is justice. The only real difference is there's no blood, despite the fact that many of the stunts in this film would be fatal in real life, like the constant impacts on the skull from bricks, or an explosion fueled by kerosene. The home in question would also be burnt down as Kevin shows no concern for safety, playing with matches, soaking ropes in the same kerosene, and setting them on fire in an area covered in chemicals he's let loose in a house full of dry old wood, and then leaving the scene. Kevin isn't out to protect anything in reality. He's just out to hurt those he fears.
The film feels like an extended commercial for the Talkboy device, zooming in on the product name as it is in use, after so few points of product placement that actually played a role in the film in the previous entry. It also shows no logic. Why is there (again) only one working alarm clock in a house with multiple sets of adults? Why are the world's worst parents allowed to even have children anymore after so seriously endangering them just a year before? Why not capitalize on the success of a series properly by creating a film that can reinvent the wheel rather than taking the same ride down memory lane. I'd rather take that ride myself, than revisit it in an inferior knock off like this sequel.
'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' hits Blu-ray in time for the holiday season with an AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1080p in the natural 1.85:1 ratio. Like 'Home Alone,' the picture isn't glossy and perfect, only this time, it's much less glossy and much further from perfect.
Skin tones are natural throughout the film, but colors (particularly in backgrounds) can be shaky at times. Edges are natural, and there are no signs of aliasing to be found. Detail isn't superb, but minor accents like the mustache on the pigeon lady come through clear as day. Oh yeah. The grain level is extremely strong, not that there's anything wrong with that, but in a few scenes in the third act, combined with some horribly soft shots, things just get ugly.
Wondering if this disc is still worth the upgrade after finding out the video isn't that great? Wonder no more. It isn't.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix isn't quite a disaster, but it's bad nonetheless. Dialogue isn't cleanly prioritized, as background noises blend with the foreground often, creating a garbled up mess that makes a few lines less than discernible. Rear speaker background chatter and chirping during the Christmas pageant segment is thoroughly distracting, making one wonder what's wrong with the disc rather than be in the crowd (the noises don't match up to the audience, either, curiously). The John Williams score, which mostly reminisces on the score from the prior film, comes through cleanly (thankfully). Rear activity is rare, bass use is equally hard to find (save for the third act, in the carnage), and dynamic range is a real mess, with no real high range to speak of, and words with even the slightest emphasis bearing an ugly pop.
The supplement package for 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' is equally disappointing (especially compared to the one found for 'Home Alone'), with a trio of trailers for the 'Home Alone' films being the lone goodies. Even worse, the only one in high-def is for the original film, as the second and third installment are in some ugly standard definition.
'Home Alone' may be a holiday classic, both original and fun, but its sequel is anything but. It's cruel, unoriginal, and uninspired...a cash in if ever there was one. The Blu-ray release for the lesser 'Home Alone' film is subpar, with not so great audio and video, and no real extras. Do yourself a favor, and skip it. Pigeon lady commands you.