Starring: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmet Walsh. Rated PG.
it or not, Tim Allen
is a funny guy. If his movie resume reads like a laundry list of forgettable
flops (Jungle 2 Jungle, For
Richer or Poorer), blame his agent
-- either that, or his own profound inability to recognize a worthwhile script.
Whatever the case, his timing is sharp, and his appearances on late-night talk
shows rarely fail to amuse. The man has talent.
If you don’t
that talent go to waste and you’re a glutton for ho-hum holiday fare, Christmas
With the Kranks is for you. It must
be, because it’s not for anyone else.
To be fair, there are
laughs. I counted five, and they were hearty laughs, no mere snickers. That’s
the good news. The bad news is the number of uncomfortable, cringe-inducing
moments of foolishness that burden this tale of Christmas humbuggery. It’s
based on a book, the best-selling Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, and though I haven’t read it, it’s
doubtful that Grisham would want his name attached to Chris Columbus’
Christopher Columbus, of
course, discovered America. Chris Columbus, the brains behind the Home
series, has yet to leave the Chicago
suburbs, the familiar setting of his latest 90-minute sitcom. It is there that
Luther (Allen) and Nora Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis) unveil their plan to skip the
holidays in favor of a tropical cruise. Little do they know that this seemingly
harmless decision will arouse the wrath of an entire community.
is really for the children, and with his daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo)
preparing to spend the holidays in South America with the Peace Corps, why not
trade in the Yule log for a hula skirt? Sounds fair, just not to Vic Frohmeyer
(Dan Aykroyd), the self-anointed neighborhood boss who loudly imposes his
red-state values on his cowering cronies. Luther and Vic butt heads. Hilarity
does not ensue.
Luther, for one, takes his
Christmas boycott to ridiculous extremes, stiffing the local cops and Boy
Scouts during their annual fundraisers and lining his doorsteps with ice to
discourage would-be holiday well-wishers, including the mailman, who takes a
nasty tumble. (This, friends, is comedy of the highest order.) Vic gathers a
small lynch mob on Luther’s lawn, imploring the Kranks to decorate their roof
with a gigantic Frosty the Snowman. (“Free Frosty!” they cry.) Meanwhile,
Curtis has the unenviable task of playing the Hysterical Housewife, who is
reduced to a shrieking, sobbing mess by carolers and canned hams.
a promising opening
that lasts all of five minutes, the movie deteriorates into a series of
pratfalls, obvious gags and sticky situations that could have been avoided if
anyone in Christmas With the Kranks acted
like sane human being. But this is not a movie that cares about
its characters; it merely dumps them into one dim-witted scenario after
another, requiring only that they act like intolerable swine at every turn.
Naturally, redemption awaits
Luther in the last act. When Blair shocks her parents by heading home, the
Kranks have no choice but to perform a last-second makeover, complete with
borrowed Christmas trees and, yes, Frosty. And would it shock you to learn that
before all is said and done, Luther learns the True Meaning of Christmas? I
didn’t think so.
There will be an audience
for this, just as there was for family-oriented fiascos like Jingle
Way and another Allen vehicle, The
Santa Clause. Small children will
surely enjoy Allen’s arsenal of funny faces and Curtis’ willingness to take a
hard fall for a cheap laugh. For everyone else, skipping Christmas
Kranks is a good idea.