After faithfully and happily celebrating Christmas their entire lives, and with their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) in Peru to serve a stint in the Peace Corps, Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank are facing the prospect of a very lonely holiday. One blustery Chicago night, Luther glances longingly at an alluring poster in a travel agency window and pictures himself and Nora basking in the glow of the sun on a Caribbean cruise. What if this Christmas there was no tree, no holiday lights, no fruitcakes, no parties, no decorating… no Christmas? (from MovieWeb.com)
While it's important not to get caught up in the commercialization and secular-side of Christmas, it's hard not to love the traditional aspects of the season. For example, Christmas movies have always been a favorite during the Christmas season. From classics like White Christmas to animated specials from Garfield and VeggieTales to even last year's Elf, movies celebrating the warmth and love and sometimes even the holiday's true meaning, have been made for years. This year has already produced the abomination titled Surviving Christmas, so one can only hope Christmas With The Kranks doesn't suffer a similar fate.
Best known for his role on the sitcom Home Improvement, Tim Allen returns for his third outing in a Christmas film with Christmas With The Kranks. Allen stars as the head of the household, Luther Krank, who normally indulges in celebrating Christmas big every year with his family. When he and his wife Nora's (Jamie Lee Curtis) daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) leaves for the Peace Corps at the film's start, Luther decides it'd be easier to just forget Christmas entirely this year. What ensues is an over-the-top and ultra silly film that has its moments.
Christmas With The Kranks is based on a best-selling novel -- believe it or not -- by John Grisham. While the novel was called "Skipping Christmas," the filmmakers decided to rename it to avoid confusion with Surviving Christmas. Kranks suspends realism for most of the film's duration, allowing people to act in ways you'd only see, perhaps, in an animated film. This is all fine, but anyone expecting a straight-forward film without an abundance of exaggerated events will more than likely hate this film. Most of the film spends time on the Kranks' attempt to survive the season while avoiding the holiday altogether, and naturally the film feels like anything but a Christmas film (but should it if it's about skipping Christmas?). Many of the jokes aren't as funny as the filmmakers may hope they are, with many of them leaving one to think a younger audience is intended. However, when jokes about the married Kranks' sex lives are thrown in the mix, as well as a gag involving the couple in almost frighteningly revealing attire, one can only wonder who the film's targeted age group really is. But while Kranks isn't as funny as I expected (or perhaps it's just because the funniest moments were all in the trailers?), it remains an enjoyable and entertaining story.
The movie switches gears when the Kranks learn on Christmas Eve that their daughter will be home that night, thus overturning their plans to skip Christmas. The remaining film feels like an extended ending where the movie gets its Christmas spirit. Sadly, Christmas With The Kranks never once even hints at Jesus as a part of what Christmas is about, but does focus on selflessness and giving before the credits roll.
Although filled with plenty of problems to keep this from being an annual seasonal must, Christmas With The Kranks is enjoyable enough to be worth a matinee or a rental by a fireside. While it would have benefited by a less cartoonish and exaggerated approach, it's a consistently lighthearted film that doesn't take itself too seriously, thus allowing nearly anything and everything to happen.
Overall, you're probably better off picking up a copy of Elf this season than rushing out to Christmas With The Kranks, but if you're hankering for a new holiday movie to escape to during the hustle and bustle of the season, then Kranks may be worth a look.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/28/04)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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