out of Five
Running time: 95
Below average comedy that remains watchable thanks to a likeable cast but is very low on laughs.
Christmas With The Kranks is fortunate in that it’s being released in the same week as the utterly abysmal Ben Affleck disaster, Surviving Christmas. It will inevitably pick up some relatively favourable reviews as a result, even if they’re only of the “Not the worst Christmas film this week, because that honour goes to…” variety. That said, it’s never especially funny and only remains watchable thanks to its likeable cast.
Based On The Grisham Novel
Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Krank, a couple who are depressed to be spending their first Christmas without their gorgeous daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo), who has joined the Peace Corps in Peru. Luther persuades Nora to forego the usual Christmas trappings that year and spend the holiday on a Caribbean cruise instead. However, when their busybody neighbours (led by Dan Aykroyd) find out that the Kranks are skipping Christmas, they do everything in their power to make them change their minds.
The film is based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel Skipping Christmas and you can tell that it’s been retitled because the characters stress the words every time they say them (and they say them so often it’s like they’re getting paid to advertise it).
At any rate, the movie is a fairly schmaltzy affair and it takes an unnecessary turn into the realms of fantasy towards the end, with the appearance of a character who may or may not be Santa Claus (played by Austin Pendleton).
Script Not Sharp Enough
There are several sight gags, none of which are especially funny. The comic highlight is probably the sight of Tim Allen bemusedly jabbing his face with a fork after a botox injection. The main problem is that the script isn’t sharp enough for the film to really work – it should probably have been rewritten as a vehicle for Ben Stiller. There are even a few half-hearted stabs at Stiller-like “embarrassment” humour (Nora being caught in a bikini by her priest; Allen dangling off the roof) but it falls dreadfully flat.
Another problem is that the character of Luther Krank needs to be, well, crankier. Tim Allen is extremely likeable and as a result, he’s neither as angry nor as initially unsympathetic as the script needs him to be. Jamie Lee Curtis does her best (and her Comedy Scream is used to good effect) but the film makes her look so dowdy that you end up feeling sorry for her.
Still, there’s good support from the always-reliable Dan Aykroyd, as well as Erik Per Sullivan (Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle), Cheech Marin and M. Emmet Walsh as Luther’s grumpy neighbour.
In short, the film remains watchable thanks to its likeable cast but you’ll be lucky if it manages to raise more than a smile or two throughout. Still, it’s a hell of a lot better than Surviving Christmas, so if you absolutely HAVE to see a Christmas movie this week, then see this one.