Film: "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"

Stars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern

Theaters: Annex, Eastland, Eton Square and Cinema 8 (Broken

Arrow, Sand Springs)

Rating: PG (violence)

Quality: Two stars (on a scale of zero to four stars)

You'd think those wacky McCallisters would have learned their lesson.

Two Christmases ago, they rushed off on a hurried vacation

and accidentally left precocious young son Kevin "Home

Alone." Left to his own devises, the boy gorged himself

on junk food, watched TV late into the night, fought off

a couple of monumentally inept burglars and befriended a

lonely, misunderstood neighborhood hermit.

Now here we are in 1992, Christmas approaching, and the

McCallisters are planning a holiday trip to Florida. So

what happens? There's a mix-up in the Chicago's bustling

O'Hare Airport, Kevin gets separated from his family and

winds up on a plane to New York. He's "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."

Someone should call the welfare authorities on this family.

In this sequel to the wildly successful sleeper hit of 1990,

writer-producer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus

decide not to tinker too much with a good thing.

So when Kevin finds himself solo in the Big Apple, this

child of affluence simply whips out his dad's credit card,

checks himself into the Plaza Hotel and proceeds to: gorge

himself on room-service junk food, watch TV late into the

night, fight off those two still colossally bumbling burglars

and befriend a lonely, misunderstood pigeon lady in Central Park.

Moviegoers hoping for a smidgeon of invention or risk-taking

in "Home Alone 2" will go home empty-handed. The new movie

provides little more than a change of scenery. It repeats

the same slapstick gags, the same maudlin sentiment, the

same cutesy bits of business - only this time in the holiday-decked

environs of Manhattan.

Still, there's something sort of comforting and timeless

in this modern spin on O. Henry's short story "The Ransom

of Red Chief," in which a feisty little boy gets the best

of a couple of adult con men.

Child star Macaulay Culkin as Kevin is again at the center

of the adventure, and he comes off as sort of a modern-day

male version of Shirley Temple, almost too cute to be real.

Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern show up again as the infamous

Wet Bandits - Harry and Marv, respectively - and they're

in town planning a major heist at a toy store.

Naturally, Kevin bumps into his old pals, and ... as the

say in show biz ... hilarity ensues. Between battling the

Wet Bandits and playing wise with the Plaza's smarmy, officious

staff (Tim Curry, Dana Ivey and Rob Schneider), Kevin finds

time to befriend a tattered old lady in Central Park (Oscar-winner

Brenda Fricker) and counsel her sagely on how to pull her life together.

The second time around, much of the material seems a bit

stale. Kevin's too-wise speeches seem treacly and false.

The cartoonish violence seems stark and strident.

Among the horrors our young hero visits on Harry and Marv

is: a staple gun fired up Marv's nose, a kerosene-filled

toilet into which Harry plunges his head while trying to

extinguish a burning hat, a load of bricks dropped on the

villains' heads, and various thunks from swinging paint

cans and electrical jolts from portable generators.

It's all meant to evoke a sort of Three Stooges slapstick

air, a wild Warner Brothers cartoon mayhem. But we've come

to know Harry and Marv well enough now to sympathize. And

when Kevin challenges the hapless crooks with a snotty admonishment

- "Have you had enough pain yet?" - we have a faint urge

to smack this little wiseguy. (A word of warning: the nature

of this violence might make the film unsuitable for very young viewers.)

Despite this material's definite loss of innocence and surprise,

it offers some engaging moments. The calculated commercialism

of "Home Alone 2" is softened somewhat by some good supporting

performances, notably by a sweet, snowy-haired Eddie Bracken

as the toy store owner and the dignified, humane turn of Fricker.

"Home Alone 2" is probably a critic-proof movie. Less-than-glowing

reviews won't keep curious audiences away, so it's sure

to be one of the big holiday money-makers. For older viewers,

it's harmless enough stuff.

But as Kevin grows older and gets left alone in other locations

(as he surely will), let's hope the filmmakers find some

new inspiration for originality in this formula.

For local moviegoers, it's interesting to note that Tulsan

Mark Radcliffe, a long-time John Hughes associate, served

as executive producer on this film.