Christmas with the Kranks (2004) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and some adult humor
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmet Walsh, Julie Gonzalo, Elizabeth Franz, Erik Per Sullivan, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey, Austin Pendleton, Rene Lavan, Tom Poston
Director: Joe Roth
Screenplay: Chris Columbus
Review published December 5, 2004
If there's anything that will make you appreciate spending Christmas with your own relatives, it's the prospect of spending Christmas with the Kranks, even if it's only for 90+ minutes. After enduring the lame Surviving Christmas, it appears the Grinch might have had something to do with the selection of holiday movies in 2004, as Christmas with the Kranks is yet another yuletide stinker guaranteed to have you lining up at your local video store to see an old favorite this time of year.
Yes, it's another Tim Allen (Who is Cletis Tout?, Galaxy Quest) Christmas flick, and although we don't really need it, we probably would have been far better off with The Santa Clause 3 than this misfire. Allen plays Luther Krank, who decides that he can save money this year by not celebrating Christmas and taking his wife Nora (Curtis, Freaky Friday) on a Caribbean cruise, now that their daughter (Gonzalo, I'm with Lucy) has joined the Peace Corps and won't be home. Unfortunately, this move pisses off the neighbors, who are outraged that the Kranks won't join in the Christmas spirit. They proceed to terrorize the Kranks at every turn, calling them up repeatedly to taunt them, constantly appearing at their door, and harassing them whenever they appear in public. The Kranks can only count the days until they finally get away from the madness, until they receive that phone call from their beloved daughter telling them she's coming home with her new fiancée, who wants to experience all the joy and mirth of Christmas in the United States for the first time.
I hope none of you considers anything in my plot description to be a spoiler, as it doesn't even tell you as much as the trailer for the film, which practically tells you the entire movie. Not that there's anyone who couldn't figure out where things are going at any time, as Chris Columbus' (Nine Months, The Goonies) script telegraphs all of its plot points long before they actually happen. It's based on a John Grisham book called "Skipping Christmas", which I haven't read, but will probably guess doesn't quite play for the broad laughs that director Joe Roth (America's Sweethearts) does here.
Completely overrun by pratfalls, slapstick, and mean-spiritedness, Christmas with the Kranks never even comes close to being a satire on the falseness of the spirit of Christmas, especially when it tries to be all warm and fuzzy as it nears the end. In fact, this feels much more like another John Grisham adaptation, The Firm, which gave us the same close-knit community that subjects a non-conforming family to suspicion and persecution for daring to break ranks with them. The Riverside of this film might seem like a nice community to live in, but as depicted here, they are raving fanatics with no tolerance for anyone who might decide to do something as individuals, instead of being just another cog in the machine that drives the phony smiles and saccharine contentment.
If you really get the urge to take your family to a Christmas movie this year, my advice is to buy one of the many wonderful Christmas films you've enjoyed on DVD, and save yourself a bit of money. You can also save some time by just watching the trailer for the film, as there's nothing within the film itself that it doesn't cover that's worth wasting 98 minutes of your life to see. That it actually tries to win you over with Christmas well-wishing and sentimentality in the end is the biggest insult.
The only ending that would have left me walking away smiling would be if Santa himself had mowed every single character in this movie down with a machine gun, for their petulant whining and selfish posturing that does little but take away all the joy of the holidays for everyone. Yes, I'm dreaming of a red Christmas -- lots and lots of red.
©2004 Vince Leo