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Christmas with the Kranks /

Rated: PG

Starring: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Gonzalo, Dan Aykroyd, Jake Busey

Directed by: Joe Roth

Produced by: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe
Written by: Chris Columbus
Distributor: Revolution Studios



     The last time I checked, Christmas movies were supposed to be jolly and fun. Sure, there were welcome exceptions to this rule; the darkness of holiday-themed pictures in line with, say, Bad Santa, could be enjoyed. In 2004, however, the film industry, as we know it, has taken a turn for the worst. Christmas with the Cranks is the third movie about celebrating the good, old twenty-fifth of December, to be released this year (only one of which [The Polar Express] was actually any good). This film, like the Ben Affleck bomb, Surviving Christmas, is, in essence, about insane people who are in desperate need of True Holiday Spirit to save them from their own wackiness. Let’s just make one thing clear before I vent about the awfulness of Christmas with the Kranks: the mentally ill have no place in Christmas movies.

     The makers of Surviving Christmas had the sense to only shove one loony into their movie. In Christmas with the Kranks, there are about thirty of this type of person. The main focuses of the film are Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis), a middle-aged couple who has decided to boycott the usual American Christmas traditions, in favor of taking a cruise to the Caribbean, in an effort to save a few thousand dollars. Since their daughter will not be coming home to celebrate, as she working with the Peace Corps in South America, they have no reason to throw a party or decorate their home, as they both are no longer able to appreciate such activities. Sounds like a plan, eh? Well, not quite.

     The basic plot is just fine by me, but it becomes continually worse as it progresses. Characters start losing their minds, one by one. Luther is the first to go. Once he confirms his vacation plans, he does not subtly mention them to his co-workers. Oh, no; he has to send out an important invoice stating where he will be going, what he will be doing, why he will be enjoying it, and that he will not give gifts to anyone and will, in turn, not accept any, either, because he has decided that he is too stuck up to do so. Likewise, he rubs the fact that he will not be hanging lights on his house or buying a Christmas tree in all of his neighbors’ faces. He practically screams his way into some sort of bizarre Christmas-inflicted state of denial, and seems desperately in need of a psychiatrist. I won’t even begin to discuss how freakishly scary it is when he starts taking trips to the local mall’s tanning salon and receiving BoTox injections in his face.

     The Kranks neighbors retaliate against the Kranks’ decision to skip Christmas with their own insanity. When critic Eugene Novikov of Filmblather.com calls them “the yuletide Gestapo”, he’s making a huge understatement. The adults who live in nearby houses make faces at Luther and his wife and talk to them as if they’d want to kill them. The kids on the block riot because the usually friendly couple refuses to put up a gigantic, plastic statue of a snowman atop their home, as they always had, in each preceding year. This, of course, lends to Mrs. Krank’s developing insanity. In one scene, she’s afraid to walk outside of the house, in fear of being mobbed by the neighbors. Again, this is simply because she and Luther have decided to not celebrate the coming Christmas. In a state of panic, she calls him up on the telephone, speaking of their associations as if they’re some kind of Christian version of al-Qaeda. He suggests that she drive away as fast as she can, to meet him for a meal. This would most easily allow her to escape a potential physical assault from some of the neighbors.  Sure enough, once she pulls out of the driveway, materialistic Christmas-fanatic Vic Frohmeyer (a wasted Dan Aykroyd), who lives across the street, hangs onto her window in attempts to talk “rationally” with her. I’d hate to see what he would’ve done to Nora in the same situation, had she been Jewish.

     Now, I’m not a fool. I know that the strangely obsessive quirks of the characters in Christmas with the Kranks are supposed to be funny. But, they’re not. Soon enough, The Kranks’ daughter telephones home and announces that she and her new fiancé will be coming home for Christmas, after all. Better yet: they will be arriving at the airport that night. Of course, Luther and Nora don’t tell her about their travel plans, when she calls. Instead, they decide to give their cruise up and have a normal Christmas. They hurry to make their usual celebration possible by buying food and attempting to elevate their Holiday Spirits. Only those with the same mental problems as the Kranks and their neighbors will not see this climax coming. Every other viewer, like me, will find themselves wondering why they ever spent their hard-earned money on a ticket, only to be subjected to such crap. What was I supposed to take from Christmas with the Kranks? That more people on this earth should be hospitalized? That movies with as clichéd endings as this one are still able to rake in more cash at the box-office than actually creative ones? I’m still looking for an answer. Maybe ‘Ol Saint Nick will do me the favor of writing it on a piece of paper, wrapping it up in a box, and delivering it to me on Christmas Eve. But, let’s not be silly, now.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (11.30.2004)

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