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Movie Info


PG for brief language and suggestive content


Nov. 24, 2004




Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Gonzalo, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey, M. Emmet Walsh


Chris Columbus


Joe Roth


Columbia/Revolution Studios


John Grisham Skips Christmas
The stars of Christmas with the Kranks have much to say about the film and what it means to them. But what does bestselling author John Grisham say about the film that is based on his novel?


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'Christmas with the Kranks'

By Nathaniel Bell
Guest Reviewer - People are often at their worst when they’re trying to have a good time, as Christmas with the Kranks graphically illustrates. In this holiday farce directed by Joe Roth (America’s Sweethearts), Luther Krank (Tim Allen) and his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) decide to scrap the normal Christmas rituals in favor of a luxurious Caribbean cruise.

Now that their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), is serving a stint in the Peace Corps, the Kranks are willing to set aside the elaborate decorations that have made them the pride of the whole community. Once the neighbors hear of it, they waste no time in laying siege to the Krank household with cries of “Free Frosty!” Frank and Nora remain steadfast, but when Blair calls to tell them she’s coming home after all, they entreat their neighbors to help them throw a party as if nothing ever happened.

“Kranks” is based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas, but the movie has more in common with Home Alone than Grisham’s fanciful story. Chris Columbus, who adapted the screenplay, is enamored with the idea of physical suffering as comedy, and the effect is dismaying. Over the course of the film, Luther is drenched with rainwater, hung upside down from the roof of his house, tanned beyond recognition, and in a gratuitous sequence, gets his face stretched back into a hideous grin by a Botox injection. Most of the film’s gags are strange, bordering on surreal, such as when a cat gets frozen solid but can still blink its eyes.

Allen and Curtis can be charming comedians (for proof, try Galaxy Quest or Freaky Friday), and they’re not afraid of silliness, but they play such miserable egotists here it’s difficult to laugh at, let alone sympathize with, their plight. In fact, the entire cast is populated with unhappy louses, from Dan Aykroyd’s vengeful neighbor to M. Emmet Walsh’s peevish curmudgeon. Even the Boy Scouts turn nasty when they are refused their annual donation.

For a film that places so much emphasis on maintaining the external rituals of the season (putting up the Frosty statue, buying the tree, grabbing the last ham), it’s amazing the film doesn’t turn into a rant against materialism. In fact, the film appears to be about the importance of community, even while many of its characters remain unrepentant in their selfishness. Many passages refer to that mysterious “Spirit of Christmas,” which is never defined but always alluded to whenever the story requires a sentimental lift.

Despite these errors in judgment, Roth manages to sustain at least one inspired joke. It involves a chance encounter with a stranger (Austin Pendleton) nobody knows but who seems to know everybody. It’s a familiar and slightly discomfiting situation with a fairly juicy payoff.

Nutty as a fruitcake, but not nearly as tasty, Christmas with the Kranks will probably not be your first choice in holiday movie fare. It’s rated PG for brief language and suggestive content.

Nathaniel Bell is a film student at Biola University. Review used by permission.

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