'Home Alone: The Holiday Heist': It takes two to fill Macaulay Culkin's shoes

christian-martyn-jodelle-ferland-home-alone-the-holiday-heist.jpgA sequel may have different characters and actors, but thanks to the original movie, countless viewers know what to expect from anything with the title "Home Alone."

The John Hughes-written, Chris Columbus-directed 1990 comedy -- which famously made a star of Macaulay Culkin as a resourceful youngster outwitting thieves who invaded his family's home -- has yielded three follow-ups, two for theaters and the other for television. Now there's another: ABC Family debuts "Home Alone: The Holiday Heist" Sunday, Nov. 25, with the first "Home Alone" immediately preceding it.

In the new tale, instead of Culkin's Kevin, it's a just-relocated boy named Finn (played by Christian Martyn) who fends off crooks along with his sister ( Jodelle Ferland) when what the siblings initially think are ghosts haunting their new home turn out to be burglars ( Malcolm McDowell, Debi Mazar, Eddie Steeples). Seven-time Emmy winner Ed Asner also is in the cast, along with Ellie Harvie and Doug Murray as the children's parents, who are stuck elsewhere as the kids mount their defense.

Forever legendary to film lovers as the viciously anarchistic Alex in director Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" four decades ago, McDowell embraces the chance "Home Alone: The Holiday Heist" gives him to be more humorous for a broader age spectrum. "I enjoyed making it very much," he tells Zap2it. "I wasn't really expecting too much out of it because it's a kids' thing, but we actually had a lot of fun.

"I'd worked with the director ( Peter Hewitt) before, and we worked up in Winnipeg, which is quite a beautiful city. It was very comfortable and very nice doing it ... though it was all-night shooting, which wasn't that great. I'd also worked with Debi Mazar, her having been on 'Entourage,' but I don't think we ever got to play a scene together there. We bonded on this, and it was great."

McDowell also praises young co-star Martyn as "very good, the equivalent of Macaulay Culkin, who was extraordinary in that part. That's very hard to follow."

Martyn explains that he "did an audition in Toronto, then they wanted to see me again with the director, because they didn't have him yet the first time I auditioned. And apparently, he liked me. Yay!"

Comparisons to Culkin are inevitable, Martyn realizes, and that's OK with him. "I kind of tried to play it like an over-animated kid, because that's the kind of character this is, and the kind that people want to see. My mother's known for 12 years (in other words, since Martyn was born) that I've always wanted to be acting and doing 'Home Alone,' and now, I wonder if this will be my new reputation."

It well could be for Martyn, who has done voices for the animated Canadian series "Monster Math Squad" and "Franklin and Friends." He says he enjoyed matching talents with a long-time performer such as McDowell. "He really played his character how I thought he should have, kind of a comedic but smart bad guy. He's funny, but he's not stupid."

malcolm-mcdowell-home-alone-the-holiday-heist.jpgAs with many parents whose children have been entertained by the film, usually multiple times, McDowell is quite familiar with the first "Home Alone." He says, "I have young kids, so of course, they've seen it. And they love it. A kid puts one over on the grown-ups, so they squeal with delight. I have five children in total, but the three young ones will really enjoy this."

Recently given a Lifetime Achievement Award for his horror and fantasy work by the nonprofit sCare Foundation that assists homeless and impoverished youth, McDowell is happy to share a project with Asner, who's on Broadway in the comedy "Grace" until early January. However, the two acting veterans didn't cross paths physically on the latest "Home Alone."

"The day he arrived, I left," reports McDowell. "Actually, I met his son at the forecourt of the hotel as I was leaving for the airport. I know Ed, and I love him. To me, he's an icon, and the work that he's done through the years is incredible. He's such a wonderful actor and activist and person, I'm really sorry I didn't get to hang out with him."

Also just seen in a return guest shot on CBS' "The Mentalist," McDowell has been doing considerable television work. That has encompassed regular runs on ABC's reboot of "Fantasy Island," NBC's "Heroes," and TNT's continuing "Franklin & Bash" ... as well as HBO's now-finished "Entourage," for which McDowell hopes he'll be summoned back for the much-rumored feature-film spinoff.

"Honestly, it's not something I planned out," McDowell maintains of his home-screen appearances. "I used to work a lot in independent movies, because they were made for more mature audiences than the usual fare from the studios. Then the financing for those movies kind of got wiped out, along with everything else, with the meltdown.

"Cable television literally has filled the gap of the independent movie," McDowell reasons. "The writing is of such a high standard, and it started years ago. 'The Sopranos' was like an incredible movie every week, and that really was a game changer for everybody. All these companies -- HBO, TNT, USA, Syfy -- they're making extraordinary product now, and they've really upped the game."
Photo/Video credit: ABC Family
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