Worth A Look: 7.95%
Pretty Bad: 14.77%
Total Crap: 72.73%
7 reviews, 46 user ratings
|Christmas with the Kranks
by Laura Kyle
Well, we’re two out of three as far as bad Christmas movies go. Luckily, SAVING CHRISTMAS and now CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS were kind enough to keep their distance from the actual holiday, releasing themselves upon an unsuspecting public well before Thanksgiving.It’s not surprising a John Grisham novel is being made into a feature film, and in the case of Kranks – it’s not surprising Tim Allen is starring in it. The Christmas/Family Movie is to Tim Allen as mispronounced words are to President Bush – it defines him, and probably shouldn’t. Allen seems to be stuck in the mud of Holiday Genre and Light, Family-friendly Comedy Fare and only sometimes does he get to play in it (Toy Story, Galaxy Quest and okay, even The Santa Clause). He’s a likeable guy and a pretty decent comic actor – but Christmas with the Kranks is not going to be a welcomed addition to his already jolly resume, even with co-stars like Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Akroyd. So, one wonders – was this really necessary? Is Tim the Tool-man Taylor fearful of distancing himself from his secondary identity as Santa Clause? Two typecasting strikes and you can still hit a home run, but three: you’re out, right? Well, this is Hollywood and everybody likes Allen… so probably not.
"Christmas movies should take a vacation like the rest of us this year."
In Kranks, Allen plays a cranky (get it?) husband and father named Luther Krank, who thinks up a plan to take his wife, Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis), on a cruise, leaving Christmas behind – no gift exchange, no decorations, and no charity either. But it isn’t so much that he’s bent on playing Mr. Scrooge, it’s just that only daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) is away for the first time and there really doesn’t seem to be any reason to celebrate. However, his scheme does not go unnoticed by the Christmas Mafia, AKA his neighbors. And when Blair suddenly decides to come home, Operation Holiday Merriment goes underway. But you already knew this from the trailer.
That’s basically it, minus the scenes upon scenes filled to the top with elaborate, but highly uninventive and unoriginal physical gags, big facial expressions, character overreactions and stupidity - dictated without logic, relevance to the story, or, and this is the worst part… humor. The plot is so asinine and outrageous, involving Vic (Dan Akroyd) going mental over his neighbor’s utter lack of Christmas Cheer, that it forgets to be funny. Somebody gets splashed with a puddle as a car drives past, lots of people fall down, an animal gets abused, property is damaged- yep, every play from the “crazy comedy” book is used, and to a gratuitous extent.
Each scene and every bit of dialogue is ludicrous and insipid – do I really care about Nora’s chaotic excursion to obtain the last item of Hickory Honey Ham? Is comparing someone without a tan to an “uncooked chicken” as funny as it gets? Does it make any sense that Nora and Luther don’t just tell their daughter they opted not to take part in the Christmas festivities this year? No, yes, and no.
The film only managed to crank one or two laughs out of me, and after each one I felt disappointed in myself - and about a third of the way through, after my last laugh of the night died, so did my sense of humor.
Allen is the only thing redeeming about Kranks and he is also the only cast member who solicits any smiles or comes across as even mildly believable. I couldn’t stomach Jamie Lee Curtis’ interpretation of a frumpy housewife mom who happily screams at the top of her lungs when finding out her 23-year-old daughter is on the phone, hides under her sheet covers when her angry neighbors riot outside, and agrees to skip Christmas but keeps asking questions like: “Why can’t we put up Frosty?” And Dan Akroyd’s “I’ll kill you if you don’t celebrate the holidays” routine is too absurd and exaggerated to be amusing.
But the biggest flaw is probably that throughout Kranks, there is a nagging undercurrent.
What’s so bad about realizing the joy of being with family doesn’t need to be tied to a specific date on the calendar, especially when that date is characterized by shoppers pushing and shoving each other, and money being frivolously wasted? Why does Jesus Christ’s birth call for a snowman on the roof and deforestation? Christmas with the Kranks could have aimed from this satirical angle, but instead it gives into the holiday spirit it first mocks, ending with one of the following lines: “Skipping Christmas. What a stupid idea.” And “Maybe next year…” follows, as if Columbia Pictures has the balls to pop out a sequel. What is absolutely frustrating though, is skipping Christmas was the only good, novel idea in this entire movie, but Kranks can’t seem to figure that out.
There is some curious dialogue though, that may strike a chord with moviegoers, but for all the wrong reasons.
In one scene, a neighbor giddy at the site of Luther’s backtracking about skipping Christmas, jokes: “This is really funny, you know?” Could this be a case of a writer under the impression that telling an audience the movie is funny may actually convince them that it is? However, even Luther disagrees, responding with “Then why am I not laughing?” I had been asking myself the same question for a good thirty minutes already.
And, after the neighbors first start harassing the Kranks about not putting up their traditional Frosty the Snowman adornment, Luther laments something to the extent of: “I wish I could think of some snappy comeback…” We audience members wished he could too, because this is writer speak for: “I couldn’t think of a snappy comeback.”
And as if that's not bad enough, the soundtrack is one of the most horrid collections of Christmas song interpretations that I've ever heard, with the exception of a few classics. And John Debney provides his expected "happy" score, as though to remind us we are supposed to be happy when watching. Didn't work.
Perhaps director Joe Roth, who brought us The Exorcist III, isn’t accustomed to family fun and holiday hilarity. Or maybe Christmas is simply not Grisham’s forte, but one should not asses his best-selling book "Skipping Christmas" based on the movie version of it – so instead, I’ll blame screenwriter Chris Columbus, and still, that’s a hard thing to do when Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter films, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Home Alone.
Christmas with the Kranks is one of the reasons a person can’t describe a film with the term “heart-warming” and keep a straight face anymore. The whole idea of a feel-good flick has been scoffed at because of mindless, nonsensical drool like this.Never mind adherence to intelligence or reason; forget about delivering some kind of Christmas package of themes about good will to men –KRANKS didn’t even bother to be funny.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11183&reviewer=369
originally posted: 12/01/04 03:03:02