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Christmas with the Kranks

Movies | Most moviegoers will sit stone-faced through 80 percent of this disaster

Issue: "Rice: Starboard at State," Dec. 4, 2004

Christmas with the Kranks is a black hole where a movie is supposed to be. That statement may sound Scrooge-worthy, especially considering that this adaptation of the short John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas has aspirations for meaning and poignancy. Yet it's not a stretch to guess that most moviegoers will sit stone-faced through 80 percent of this disaster.

The film (rated PG for brief language and suggestive content) follows the efforts of Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank to "skip" Christmas one year. Their only child, daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo), is off to Peru to serve in the Peace Corps. Depressed that she won't be around for the holidays, Luther hits on a brilliant idea: Put the roughly $6,000 the Kranks usually spend on Christmas every year toward a 10-day Caribbean cruise and avoid the holiday like the plague. The plan would save them money (the cruise only runs $3,000) and mitigate the pressures of the season. Or so Luther thinks.

Not everyone is willing to let the Kranks skip Christmas quietly. Luther's neighbors, led by the meddlesome Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), bring an increasing amount of pressure to bear on the Kranks to fall in line with usual holiday traditions. The Kranks dig in their heels, and wackiness ensues.

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A few gags hit their targets, but Christmas never finds a consistent tone or pace, creating a truly uncomfortable mix of genres. (Does Home Alone meets It's a Wonderful Life really sound appealing to anyone?) Most of the film falls terribly, painfully flat. In the "spirit of the season," though, one could pick out a few positive elements in the film. For one, there's very little offensive material. For another, church activity seems to be a normal part of the Kranks' life. And, finally, the "redemptive" scene at the film's conclusion, involving some elderly neighbors struggling with cancer, is touching and unexpected. It's touching enough, in fact, to suggest that the scene belongs in another film entirely.

So if the combination of (a) the lack of offensive material, (b) subtle positive references to religion, and (c) Tim Allen in a Christmas movie meets some basic minimum requirements for entertainment, disregard most of this review. If not, readers would do well to skip this Christmas.

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