- Composed by John Williams
- La-La Land Records / 2012 / 113m
Released in 1990, Home Alone became so successful (in fact, rising to be the third highest-grossing motion picture of all time at that stage) that a sequel became as inevitable as anything, and it duly arrived two years later, with most of the same cast and crew on board, including director Chris Columbus, producer/writer John Hughes, Macaulay Culkin as the irritating little brat at the centre of the story and Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the two villains. (Culkin’s character is so irritating, I longed for the villains to kill him from the opening moments of the film.) It’s more of a remake than a sequel, really, but repositioned into the Big Apple (nobody is actually at home alone, here).
Also returning was John Williams, whose music was a magical part of the charm of the original film. His blissfully light and airy score was simply bustling with charm and his uncanny knack for finding box office success served him well again. Home Alone 2 is even better, with the composer taking the finest material from the first score, expanding on it, and adding plenty of new stuff. The soundtrack album released at the time of the film was fine in terms of selection, featuring most of the score’s best bits, but sonically it was not up to scratch, and in 2002 – the film’s tenth anniversary – Varèse Sarabande released it in their CD Club, this time presenting the entire score, plus a couple of alternate takes, in perfect sound, over two CDs. A decade later, it was re-released again, this time by La-La Land and featuring a tiny bit of extra source music and a little resequencing. I certainly approve of moving the choral versions of the famous main theme “Somewhere in My Memory” and extremely beautiful Williams carol “Star of Bethlehem” from the bonus section to the start of the album, where they belong.
Much of the rest of the first half of the first CD is taken up by blissful reprises of the first score’s main themes – an orchestral “Somewhere in my Memory”, the not-quite-Nutcracker “Holiday Flight”, plus the other beautiful songs Williams wrote with Leslie Bricusse. It’s all brilliant. The first substantial new material comes in “To the Plaza, Presto”, a classy and exciting piece of chase music pulled from the top drawer of lighthearted Williams music. There’s nothing light about the orchestration or performance, though. The following cue, “Race to the Room / Hot Pursuit” cleverly integrates a couple of the main themes into a dramatic action setting.
“Haunted Brownstone” is one of the standout tracks, with Williams creating some subtly spooky – yet beautiful – music in a splendid set-piece. “Appearance of the Pigeon Lady” is darker, more overtly horrific, and once again very impressive. Another reprise of a popular piece from the first score soon follows, “Preparing the Trap”, a kind of kiddy version of JFK‘s “The Conspirators” with the electronic addition adding an ominous but playful edge to the delightful tune underpinning it. As the score nears its end, there are two wonderful pieces of comic mickey-mousing in “Luring the Thieves” and “Kevin’s Booby Traps”, each made up of several shorter pieces, and both are great examples of Williams in his best “musical storytelling” mode. He does that (telling the whole story through music) better than any other film composer, before him or contemporary with him – it’s so hard to pull off, but he does it with aplomb and (believe it or not) Home Alone 2 is a prime example. The finale is dominated by the score’s big new song, “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas”, a delightful new carol which deserves to be added to the list of staples. The other Home Alone songs all get classy performances in the bonus track section – “Somewhere In my Memory”, “Star of Bethlem” and “Christmas Star”. Each has its charms.
Home Alone 2 is a fantastic Williams family score. Does it really need a 113-minute album? Perhaps not, but to be honest the music is so invigorating and so elegantly done that it never really outstays its welcome, which is rare indeed for such a long album, and it would make a perfect accompaniment to your kids’ present-opening on Christmas Day morning (assuming you have a family amenable enough to allow you to listen to film music while they’re in your presence, which is unlikely). It’s one of the best Christmas-themed film scores anyone’s ever done, and an essential listen around the festive season. La-La’s album probably isn’t necessary if you already have the Varèse (though the change to the sequencing makes it a little better); but certainly is if you don’t.