Christmas With the Kranks (PG) ★½

Review Date: November 24th, 2004

Christmas with the Kranks wants to be a funny and touching movie about what happens when empty-nesters decide not to celebrate the holidays, but the film comes off as a grating Krank-fest instead.


Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank have enjoyed many wonderful years celebrating Christmas with their only daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), but when she goes off to Peru on a Peace Corps mission, the two suddenly find themselves alone during that most precious time of year. Collectively, now, Awww! Not too worry, Luther has a brilliant plan. He convinces the reluctant Nora to skip Christmas altogether--no decorations, no tree, no presents--and go with him on a sun-filled Caribbean cruise instead. Unfortunately, the neighbors have a huge problem with it, especially the neighborhood Christmas Nazi Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), and the battle between the Kranks and their neighbors soon threatens peace, harmony and good will towards men. But then, like a little Christmas miracle, Luther and Nora get a call from Blair saying she's coming home after all (she's a sneaky one, isn't she?). Can the Kranks crank it in gear and get themselves back into the Christmas spirit in time for their beloved daughter's arrival? Oh, for the love of Kris Kringle, I hope so!


It's not really Tim Allen or Jamie Lee Curtis' fault the movie fails to connect. Both are extremely adept at playing it for laughs, especially with the physical comedy. Curtis is hysterical chasing the last canned ham through the grocery store parking lot, as it slips out her hands and rolls out of control into the street, while Allen's comic talents shine through as he attempts to eat after having Botox injections (though, it's time for the actor to move on from Christmas movies). Yet, somehow the Kranks slowly denigrate into whining, screeching, paranoid curmudgeons, while the neighbors turn into creepy militants. By the time the Kranks get that all-important call from Blair and get all Christmas-y again, it's too late; you're already thoroughly irritated with the lot of them. Only Aykroyd seems to rise slightly above, starting off as the villain but ultimately becoming the beacon of community togetherness, as he rallies the neighborhood to help the Kranks get back into Christmas.


Sing with me: ''Have yourself a Kranky little Christmas...'' Is it me or are the Christmas movies this season cynical downers? Of course, they don't mean to be, but they are just the same, including the obnoxiously bad Surviving Christmas, the eerily non-human

Polar Express--and now the ill-tempered Christmas with the Kranks. The idea of two people whose child has left the nest, deciding to skip Christmas while those around them chastise them for it, has some potential. But in this case, the story comes from a John Grisham book Skipping Christmas--yes, the same guy who writes legal thrillers. That should be your first clue. A second clue is that the script is written by Chris Columbus, the same creative mind behind another Christmas favorite, Home Alone. It's evident from both movies that Columbus is a sap for the whole holiday spirit thing but a tad mean-spirited at the same time. Only director Joe Roth (America's Sweethearts) recognizes what he's got to work with, highlighting as much slapstick comedy as he can before the schmaltz takes over.

Bottom Line

If Christmas means spending it with the irascible, over-the-top Kranks, then taking a Caribbean cruise really does sound like a much better deal.