Repetition is what some may call a disease that has grasped hold of filmmaking. Whether it’s that of cliches themselves, or franchises that refuse to recognize their flawed storytelling. Either way, the duplication of cinema’s past is a continued tradition that rears its ugly head on more than one occasion. A prime example of this would be that of Chris Peckover’s “Better Watch Out.” A film that almost feels as if a screenwriter walked into a room and asked “what if “Home Alone” was rated R?” Then a bunch of men thought that was a great idea and crafted a scene that met that purpose, and then realized they forgot to create the most pivotal part to a film, a story. They strung some things together and attempted to make a movie that centers around that of a twelve-year-old named Luke (Levi Miller) who has a crush on his seventeen-year-old babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). On the final night before she has to move to a new town, he decides to make a move finally and devises a plan to scare her in hopes that she’ll realize his maturity and fall in love with him. This method, of course, fails and then we are launched into this weird and overwhelmingly rushed thriller in which a twelve-year-old has become a full-blown psychopath. Oops, did I spoil the movie? My apologies, but in all honesty, I kinda don’t care. The reason being is this film ruins itself because as you watch, it follows the predictable cliches of a thriller genre and attempts to connect a story that is severely lacking characters, reasoning, exposition, and even that of meaning.
Chris Peckover is an up and coming filmmaker for sure. This film will be his second feature film that he’s directed and, in all honesty, his direction is satisfactory for the most part. The shot composition and shot structure of the film isn't terrible, nor is it unbearable to watch. He provides a grounded setting for our story, and I could feel that he was attempting to pull out some superb performances from his this young cast. Though the performance fails to capture more than that of an angsty teen throwing a tantrum, I’m not going to place the blame on the direction. Sure, he is responsible for bringing this uneven mess together, but in all reality, the actors and screenwriter are more at fault than he is. Wait, what's that? Chris Peckover helped write the screenplay? Oh, so he’s credited as the accomplice in this future remake of Chris Columbus classic “Home Alone?” Hmm, nevermind then, because Mr. Peckover is as responsible for this films unbearably bland story as anyone else. Like I said, “Better Watch Out” doesn’t have any shots or scenes that visually are inexplicably terrible. Not saying that the visuals of the film are superb, but none of them feel as dumbfounded as the screenplay. A screenplay that centers around that of a kid almost instantly becoming a full-blown psychopath so that we can have a different take on a “Home Alone.” What if Kevin went insane? What if Kevin was the real villain and not the two robbers? What if he grew up to be a murdering sociopath? My response to all those questions is a simple look of unyielding rage because this idea to take everything that was simply enjoyable and lacked that of dark themes or an emotionally gripping atmosphere, and transferring them to some world that adds bleakness to them is incredibly ignorant. Chris Columbus “Home Alone” doesn’t work simply because of its booby traps and slapstick humor, “Home Alone” is a beloved classic because of its characters and underrated cinematic value. The direction, editing, score, and cinematography are very well done for something designed to be a kid’s film. THe same cannot be said for “Better Watch Out.” Zach Kahn was the other man in charge of writing this films and his past work includes that of “Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser.” A film that is obviously a masterpiece in its right. Of course, I’m kidding when I say that, but at least that film was building off of a character that had established fans and manifested a narrative of sorts. “Better Watch Out” on the other hand, is pretty much a film that is written like choose your adventure book. It’s as if someone interfered with their writing and took a character to an extreme point just because they wanted to. No, build up, no character arc, no reasonable explanation. Just a writer that is moving plot points along so that his film can hopefully make some money. It’s a pathetic excuse and one that is at times unbearably dull to watch because you don’t care about the characters, you don’t care about the story, and you don’t care about the stakes at hand. The performances are of course, noticeably horrendous. These kids are trying though; they are working their asses off to pull out a gem from this garbaged pile of crap. Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller are lacking a severe amount of chemistry, but they are doing the best they can. Ed Oxenbould stuck out like a sore thumb in my opinion, and the rest of the cast is more served as plot devices than anything else. The only thing giving this film a point or two from me is that of these young actors trying to make something work, unlike the adult filmmakers who honestly feel as if they could care less. Oh, and if you wanted to know how much this film rips off of “Home Alone” well then wonder no more because the answer is a lot. “Home Alone” is actually apart of this film's overwhelmingly convoluted narrative, and it serves as a darkly comical moment. A moment in which one of the kids tests out the theory that if a paint can is swung from a balcony that it would kill you, instead of just providing you with a bump you on the head. It’s using the prestige of another movie to enhance that of its screenplay. A cardinal sin that did not go unnoticed.
“Better Watch Out” is a lackadaisical written, underperformed, and though it’s not offensively visualized, the direction is not anything to brag about either. It’s a film that is once again attempting to cash on the success of an older movie that is once again far superior to this attempted revisualization. This film is much like that of James Gunn “The Belko Experiment” from earlier this year, in which it serves best as a logline for a screenplay and nothing more. I cannot stand films that do this because more than anything it bothers me that two filmmakers crafted an investing concept and failed to build off of it in any ingenuitive way. It’s disappointing to watch originality go to waste, and “Better Watch Out” is a film that does just that with its inability to fabricate any narrative out of its lackadaisical filmmakers.