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
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
- 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
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
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