Christmas With the Kranks

on November 24, 2004 by Tim Cogshell
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Even if you're enamored of Christmas movies -- though one puzzles at how or why this would be -- you'd still be hard pressed to understand, let alone enjoy, the premise set forth in "Christmas with the Kranks," a film adapted from the novel "Skipping Christmas" by legal thriller author John Grisham, dabbling outside his usual genre. Said premise is basically this: Upon the departure of their daughter for the Peace Corps just before Christmas, Luther Krank (Tim Allen of the equally dubious "The Santa Clause" films) comes up with a novel idea -- skipping the Christmas rituals and going on a cruise instead. Which begs the question: What's wrong with that? "Nothing" is the only reasonable answer. Unless, of course, like the characters that permeate this movie, you too are a Christmas Nazi, in which case a decision such as this is tantamount to a break in the Reich.

At first, Luther's wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) is all for the money-saving, frustration-avoiding, fun-loving idea, but when the horde of Christmas-loving Stepford neighbors set upon her, she caves, leaving Luther to defend his position alone. He is berated, derided and flat-out threatened. It's even suggested that he might have forsaken his religion. All this for not wanting to put a plastic snowman on his roof, participate in the office Secret Santa drawing and plant a fire hazard in his living room.

"Christmas With the Kranks" seems to say that not wanting to participate in the yearly forced march to malls and put on hypocritically phony good cheer apparently makes one some sort of Scrooge. What's worse, the film then has the audacity to not be funny. There's one good gag involving the application of some Botox to Allen's face, but overall the jokes are kind of disturbing, including one bit that's just creepy in which Curtis and Allen find themselves in rather unflattering swimwear.

The only way that a film with this premise is salvageable is if the protagonists end up on a mistletoe-free beach, blithely sipping Mai Tais on Christmas day. But this is a Christmas movie, and you can guess how it ends. Merry freaking Christmas. Starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Erik Per Sullivan, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey and M Emmet Walsh. Directed by Joe Roth. Written by Chris Columbus. Produced by Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan. A Columbia release. Family/Comedy. Rated PG for brief language and suggestive content. Running time: 94 min

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