Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmett Walsh
Rather unexpectedly, "Christmas with the Kranks" is not a bad film. It is, however, also not a good film. Where does that leave us? With a frighteningly average film hindered by a remarkably silly script by Chris Columbus based upon a novel by John Grisham called "Skipping Christmas." I have no idea whether or not this film is faithful to the novel, and I can't say I really care. Judging the film on its own merits, however, I have to note that there were things in this film that pleased me tremendously but I found myself repeatedly bothered by the ludicrous nature of most of the action.
For those who don't know, this film centers around Luther Krank and his wife Nora, whose daughter Blair has gone off to Peru with the Peace Corps and will be spending her first Christmas away from home. So, when accountant Luther figures up how much they spent on the last Christmas he also figures out that for half that price he can go on a 10-day Caribbean cruise with his wife. So, they decide to skip Christmas.
There are, of course, many aspects of this film that simply don't make sense. The basic premise of their neighborhood's uproar over the decision to skip Christmas is never really played off very well. This uproar results in an increasingly unbelievable series of events that begin to border on stupidity. If I had neighbors this psychotic, I'd have moved long ago and it wouldn't have taken me "skipping Christmas" to notice my neighbors were nuts.
Furthermore, both Luther and Nora are downright mean at times in dealing with this situation and the all too pat ending comes too abruptly and just never resonated with me at all.
So, what works here? There are several things about this film that I enjoyed...though the film also had the poor timing of being seen directly after the wonderful "Spanglish." This film doesn't compare. First, however, I do give some kudos to the performance of Jamie Lee Curtis...in recent years, Curtis has been very outspoken about women accepting their bodies as they are and has openly expressed regret for some of the things she did out of vanity. So, a scene in which the now older, less in shape Curtis is seen in a bikini at a tanning salon is actually heartwarming to see. This is a "real" body and refreshing to see. Curtis also projects such energy and enthusiasm when dealing with her daughter Blair that I found myself very moved by the relationship.
As her husband, Allen was a bit low energy for my liking but actually came off better in his more sincere scenes towards the end of the film. Allen has a sort of gruff looking face, and in the early scenes when he's rather self-centered and mean-spirited it sort of crossed a line for me...I stopped caring about him.
In supporting roles, Dan Aykroyd does a fairly nice (but typical) job as a nosy, neighborhood "boss" and decent performances are turned in by Cheech Marin, Jake Busey, M. Emmet Walsh and Julie Gonzalo as Blair.
"Christmas with the Kranks" has a killer holiday soundtrack that held my interest even when the film didn't...it included all the classics with some alternative versions thrown in including my favorites by The Ramones.
"Christmas with the Kranks" is far from a holiday classic, but it certainly has its moments of holiday cheer. If you can get past the below average script, and simply enjoy the energetic, enthusiastic performance by Jamie Lee Curtis, the killer soundtrack and the general goodwill generated by the cast then you may find yourself enjoying this film a bit more than most critics would have you think.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic