Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
The Krank's Christmas Resurrection
You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law? - Spike
Whilst John Grisham may have written the story and Chris Columbus the screenplay, it ends up meaning diddly squat when it comes to "Christmas with the Kranks", not by any means the worst Christmas movie ever made but one which ends up disappointingly average. The issue is that the idea of a married couple deciding to skip Christmas is quite good, I know people who actually do this, but the execution of it is lazy, relying on obvious gags rather than trying to make a statement about the commercialism of Christmas and the expectations that the holiday brings with it. It means that if you just want simple humour seen in countless other Christmas movies with Tim Allen at the centre of it all then "Christmas with the Kranks" will be entertaining but if you want something different to the norm which digs beneath the comedy then you are going to get left wanting.
With their daughter away for Christmas Luther Krank (Tim Allen - The Santa Clause 2) suggests to his with Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis - Freaky Friday) that this year they give Christmas a miss and save money by going away on a Caribbean cruise instead. But what they don't realise is that by refusing to participate in anything Christmassy from decorating their house to sending Christmas cards they become enemy number one with their neighbours. And that causes a lot of problems especially when their daughter phones up at the last minute to surprise them with the news she is coming home for Christmas.
There are two sides to "Christmas with the Kranks" the reasonable intro and then the other 90 minutes of cliche Christmas comedy. Now I actually quite like the basis for "Christmas with the Kranks", I like the idea of a couple who decide to give Christmas a miss and find themselves faced with countless difficulties such as their friends who expect them to celebrate it in their traditional way. It maybe extreme with Luther Krank sending a memo to all his staff informing them of his intentions not partake in any Christmas festivities and jointly with his wife deciding not to do anything Christmassy even sending cards but it is semi clever. And it is also semi clever when Luther comes up with what it cost them last Christmas, a figure which seems as extreme as everything else but makes a point about how expensive Christmas is.
But here is where it goes wrong because we then basically have Luther turning into a Scrooge style character, avoiding everything Christmassy to the point of hiding behind the curtains when carol singers come calling. It's supposed to be funny but in fact is incredibly lame and so is much of the humour which follows often focussing on Luther. It doesn't help that by basically taking on a persona of a Christmas misery you don't warm to Luther or his wife Nora and to be honest a Christmas movie which wants to be a feel good comedy needs to have you warm to the main characters. This has the knock on effect that when at the last minute they have to change thier plans you don't feel sorry for them.
One thing is for sure, you need to be a fan of Tim Allen to like "Christmas with the Kranks" because he is central to it all, in fact I am pretty sure he is in every single scene. But on top of becoming the Christmas misery what we see from Allen is the same sort of harassed humour we've seen him do in other movies and with him being at the centre of every joke it becomes over kill. And to be honest it could have so easily been different as the cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmet Walsh, Cheech Marin and young Erik Per Sullivan all of which could have had more to do other than end up being there in a supporting role, although the tanning scene featuring Jamie Lee Curtis in a bikini does take the attention away from Allen briefly. In fact it is disappointing that Dan Aykroyd is so under used as neighbour Vic Frohmeyer, a character who should have been as important as Luther, as Aykroyd could have added a lot more variety to the jokes.
What this all boils down to is that "Christmas with the Kranks" is by no means the worst Christmas movie I have ever seen but it is a barely an average one. Whilst the idea of a couple deciding to skip Christmas is fun the rest of the movie is lazy with humour which can be seen in countless other Christmas movies. And to be honest if you want a fun Christmas movie to put you in the festive spirit, there are a lot better.
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