Saturday, July 21, 2007

Christmas with the Kranks

Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as Holiday Holdouts in Uninspired Dud

On paper, Christmas with the Kranks reads like a "can't miss"comedy with a lot more potential than the lame lump of coal that's been dumped in our cinema stocking this holiday season. For openers, it stars Tim Allen (The Santa Clause 1 & 2) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Freaky Friday), both of whom are known for this sort of family fare.
Plus the production is stocked with such consummate comedians as Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Caroline Rhea and Tom Poston. And rounding-out the supporting cast are well-respected character actors like M. Emmet Walsh and Jake Busey.
The movie was even directed by Joe Roth, whose previous picture, America's Sweethearts, was a hilarious hit, and its screenwriter was Christopher Columbus, who wrote and/or directed a string of wholesome hits, including Home Alone 1 &2, Harry Potter 1 & 2, Only the Lonely and Mrs. Doubtfire. Perhaps the problem had to do with the source material, as the story is based on the book Skipping Christmas, an uncharacteristic departure from legal potboilers by best-selling novelist John Grisham.
This transparent tale takes place in suburban Chicago, where Luther (Allen) and Nora (Curtis) Krank are facing the prospect of spending their first Christmas without their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), who is off in Peru, serving in the Peace Corps. Rather than get swept up in all of the obligatory rituals of the frenzied season, such as rushing around shopping malls, exchanging fruitcakes and hosting their annual holiday party, the couple opts to avoid all the insanity by treating themselves to a Caribbean cruise.
But when word of their blasphemous plan spreads around their completely Christian cul-de-sac, their nosy neighbors, led by busybody Vic Frohmeyer (Aykroyd), decide to intervene. For unless the Kranks reconsider, their darkened house's exterior will ruin the block by being the only one on Hemlock street unadorned by festive lights and without a Frosty the Snowman on the roof.
So, for the balance of this misfiring misadventure, everybody in town takes turns trying to embarrass Luther and Nora into changing their minds. This includes not just friends, but local cops looking for a donation and a prudish parish priest offended by the idea of their patronizing a tanning salon. The picture's defective premise rests on the debatable notion that there is something wrong with anyone inclined to celebrate the season with anything other than the socially-sanctioned traditions.
For laughs, it resorts to second-rate slapstick and cornball sight gags like Jamie Lee in an unflattering bikini and Tim trying to talk after Botox injections. The movie might have been more interesting had it gone the route of a sophisticated social satire, questioning commercialism rather than simply endorsing society's slavish capitulation to runaway consumption.
Of course, some pathetically predictable plot twists and syrupy sentimentality which could only amuse a five year-old lead the Kranks back to their materialistic senses in time for a Kodak moment which shouts a rather shallow Merry Capitalism to all!

Poor (0 stars)
Rated PG for slightly salty language and for some sexually suggestive material
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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