Directed by Joe Roth
A couple who has decided to skip Christmas and take a tropical vacation since their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) is away must quickly throw together their usual Christmas celebration when she abruptly decides to return home from college.
Tim Allen was the king of Christmas at one time. I think quite possible he may still be even though he has not made a Christmas themed movie in quite a while near as I can tell. He is a comedic Bing Crosby if you will. Here he plays Luther Krank who is rather down on Christmas this year and decides to take himself and his wife on a tropical cruise much to the irritation of his neighbors-all of whom value the Christmas season and see this change of plans as an affront.
We have a pretty good cast here. Aside from Tim Allen we have Jamie Lee Curtis as Luther’s wife Nora. The great Dan Aykroyd shows up as the Krank’s neighbor Vic Frohmeyer who views himself as somewhat a leader in the neighborhood. The great M. Emmet Walsh is doing here what he does best as the Krank’s neighbor Walt and that’s being cranky. Cheech Marin and Jake Busey play Officers Salino and Treen respectively. The late Tom Poston is a priest named Father Zabriskie. Caroline Rhea and Felicity Huffman play two of Nora’s friends. Not necessarily a mind-blowing cast but they are all good and well suited for this type of film.
Christmas with the Kranks is a little heavy handed in its messages of community and family. Here the Kranks realize they have an unintended responsibility to others since over time they and their neighbors have become an extended family. Luther is desperate for his trip and Nora is excited to be breaking out of her rut.
Everything the Kranks try is a disaster in their scramble to give their daughter the holiday she expects. From making the Christmas ham to setting up decorations, it all goes comically wrong. It does so because at first they are trying to do it on their own. Things only get better when they get around to including their neighbors. Their family.
We do get the expected heartwarming and touching subplot with Walt and Luther. They are antagonistic towards one another throughout the bulk of the film in an escalating series of barbs. The moment when Luther offers the tickets to Walt and his wife pulls blatantly at the heartstrings.
This movie uses Christmas movie tropes as blunt objects and hits you upside the head with Austin Pendleton as an umbrella salesman named Marty who seems to know everyone, but nobody can figure out how. It is clear that he is some kind of jolly Christmas spirit with the heavy implication at the end that he is most likely Santa Claus.
The film itself is generally slapstick as well as being perhaps a bit sappy at times. There is no neighborhood on Earth that is even close to this, but this is a comedy so that is okay. I went into this not looking for anything deep. I generally do not when it comes to Christmas films. They are to be mental comfort food. Kudos if you find something deeper but that is rarely the goal of filmmakers nor should the goal be anything other than comfort food.
Christmas with the Kranks is based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas with a script written by Chris Columbus. I think the most shocking thing about all this is that this is a John Grisham story that is not a legal thriller with danger around every corner. It is a light and ludicrous romp.
This is not a deep or sophisticated film. It is to drive home the point of family and togetherness during Christmas. It is not intended to be Oscar worthy or complex. It is an enjoyable film with a simple message. Some people have drawn issue with that, but they tend to not be very fun at Christmas time anyway.
Christmas with the Kranks is an enjoyable and guilty pleasure of a Christmas film. You will pop it in and smile. It might not be a must see but it is a very enjoyable movie to watch.