Disney Plus Mines Its Vault for Reboots and Remakes Like ‘Home Sweet Home Alone’ and Its 18% Rotten Tomatoes Score … But at What Cost?

Disney Plus
(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Disney disappointed investors last week with slow Disney Plus subscriber growth. But with pandemic-related production delays finally behind it, Disney celebrated its second birthday Friday by releasing the leading edge of what it promises will be a ramped up original programming slate, powered by its undeniable collection of brands—not just Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel, but a whole host of classic film and TV titles.

One of those titles is Home Alone, acquired in 2019 when the Disney bought 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.

So, arriving 31 years after filmmaker Chris Columbus and writer John Hughs’ holiday classic Home Alone rendered onto pop culture a new child—and later, tabloid—star in Macaulay Culkin, Home Sweet Home Alone debuted on Disney Plus. In this version, directed by Borat writer Dan Mazur, 10-year-old Max Mercer (Archie Yates) is forgotten by his family and is forced to defend his home from the bad guys. Sound familiar?

So far, among 51 reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes, Home Sweet Home Alone has scored a decidedly bad 18% score. 

CNN Senior Writer and film critic Brian Lowry called the film a “very odd duck” that “feels slightly weird and ill-conceived.”

Disney Plus has taken other stabs at recreating its classics. In July, for instance, the platform debuted its original series Turner & Hooch. Based on Tom Hanks’ eponymous film, the 12-episode series follows the son of Hanks title character, also named Scott Turner (Josh Peck), a U.S. Marshal looking who inherits an unruly dog, the son of Hanks’ 110-plus pound Dogue De Bordeaux, also named Hooch.

Lowry’s assessment of the modernized Turner & Hooch series was even more brutal. 

“Who's a good show? Not Turner & Hooch, which goes to the dogs in the wrong way, leaving behind a Disney Plus series that's basically a remake but tries too hard to position itself as a sort-of revival. The result is a semi-confused cop drama that no amount of drooling and soulful puppy-dog eyes can fix,” Lowry wrote.

Turner & Hooch the series actually scored slightly better with critics than its predecessor did in what was perhaps a more exacting era of the late 1980s, a more gilded age of pre-internet/Harry Knowles film criticism, filled mainly with older folks working for daily newspapers, tightly scrutinizing a theatrical release paradigm with far more primacy. 

Still, the modernized Turner & Hooch’s Rotten Tomatoes score was less-than-mediocre 57%. 

Disney Plus has had warmer critical receptions for movie-inspired original series The Mighty Ducks: Gamechangers and Doogie Kamealoha, M.D., both of which scored well on Rotten Tomatoes. Both also plied the same formula of a largely no-name cast, a modest budget and a very established entertainment brand, debuting within the Disney Plus all-you-can stream smorgasbord. 

But so far, none of these titles has become a breakout hit. This leaves us wondering, is it worth for Disney to plunder its vaults for cheap remakes and reboots that seem only merely fill the Disney Plus maw?

“For better or worse, it’s just a fact of life now that recycling well-known titles is perceived as the best way to help cut through the clutter, so the issue then becomes what you do with them,” Lowry said. “It’s probably easier, frankly, with movies that are popular and well known but not exactly classics–Turner & Hooch and Home Alone being prime examples—than mucking around with truly beloved properties.”

Decider critic Joel Keller said that while the Disney Plus reboots aren’t exactly original takes on old content, they won’t hurt the reputation of what some consider beloved movies.

“Both (Turner & Hooch and Home Sweet Home Alone)  are ‘remakes’ of a sort, but since they are different stories from the originals, people can choose to completely ignore these new productions and search out the originals,” Keller said. “I mean, no one is going to confuse Josh Peck, the star of the Disney Turner & Hooch series with Tom Hanks, know what I mean?”

News.com.au critic Wenlei Ma, added: “Often, existing fans oppose remakes or revivals of their favorite movies and TV shows because they argue that a new version somehow ‘ruins’ the old one, which is an understandable perspective because these nostalgia titles have a lot of sentimental value for people, and can be foundational pop culture experiences for them. And while new versions are in conversation with their predecessors, they don't have to impact the original brand. If you're not into the idea of the next chapter, that's fine, but it doesn't change your experience and your relationship with the original. Your six-year-old self that loved the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone will always love the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone. And these new versions can mean something special to someone else, even if they're bad, because it's all subjective.”

The question is if kids who watch Disney Plus’ rendition of these reboots will bother watching the original films that inspired mediocre content.

Keller thinks that despite any bad reviews, Disney Plus subscribers may be curious about Tom Hanks’ Turner & Hooch.

“(Disney Plus’) Turner & Hooch feels more like a continuation, so people may want to go back to the original movie to see how the pairing originated,” Keller said. “The new Home Alone movie seems like its own thing that stands apart from the original.”

Whether or not Turner & Hooch is a revival and Home Sweet Home Alone is a remake is hard to decipher, which may be on purpose.

“Both titles use what's becoming a pretty popular wrinkle—linking back to the original in a way that feels as if it’s continuing the story, while simultaneously remaking it,” Lowry said. “So in a weird way they’re a little of both, which at least gives the older folk something that jogs their memories while aiming at a younger audience.”

What is clear is that Turner & Hooch and Home Sweet Home Alone are not exactly original, or at least not what streaming services like Apple TV Plus, Netflix and Amazon consider original content. Instead, they are both productions that are dependent on old premises and old characters, which is fine, but not if you are in the business of looking for new subscribers in desire of fresh content.