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Bomb For the Holidays

If you want a sweet holiday message wrapped in crap, here's your movie


Christmas With the Kranks would love to be considered among the "twisted" holiday classics like Bad Santa and A Christmas Story, but instead finds itself resting atop a junk heap that includes Jingle All the Way and Eight Crazy Nights. By taking a saccharine sweet holiday message and coating it with total crap, it gets the twisted holiday movie formula all screwed up. A little bit of evil crap is OK, but being evil for most of a film's running time and then trying to become It's a Wonderful Life in the last 20 minutes results in a discordant, unfunny and just plain rude film.

Not that Kranks is any good when it's being evil, either. It's pretty much a shitstorm from the get go, with Tim Allen mugging to the point where his face almost falls off, and Jamie Lee Curtis delivering the most overwrought, embarrassing performance of her spotty career.

Based on a John Grisham novel that doesn't have anything to do with a lawyer screwing himself or the world, Kranks tells the story of lamebrain businessman Luther Krank (Allen) who decides to skip Christmas in favor of a luxury cruise for himself and his slapstick, screechy wife, Nora (Curtis). In order to take this island cruise, all gift-giving, decorations and partying must be boycotted. Despite this, the Kranks still have a Christmas wreath on the door and make Christmas charity donations, so go figure.

The Kranks' refusal to participate in Christmas gets the immediate neighborhood in an uproar. Led by watchdog Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd, whose presence is generally not good for movies nowadays), local residents publicly denounce the Kranks and make "only in the movies" type demands. Their biggest gripe is that the Kranks won't erect Frosty, the 7-foot snowman stored in their basement. They stage a big protest, in much the same way that your average neighbor does when their ornamental desires have not been satiated. Why, when I was a kid, people on my block threatened to pee on my porch and kill my cat if Dad didn't put out that nativity scene by the day after Thanksgiving.

The film doesn't stick to Christmas for its humor. Much time is spent on Luther's preparation for the cruise, which includes indoor tanning and Botox injections. While some might find it funny to watch Allen struggle with a fruit cup while his face is stiff from Botox, I just thought it was kind of gross to watch Allen chew with his mouth open.

Luther's struggles with tanning and plastic surgery are supposed to be some kind of midlife-crisis statement, but the film never really examines the reasons for his bizarre behavior. It just asks Allen to act like an idiot for the camera, and he, having been paid millions of dollars to do so, obliges.

Being that the film is so negative and base in a non-entertaining sort of way, the moments in which it mixes in stuff like a critically ill neighbor or Luther's very sudden reversal of spirits feel dishonest, to say the least. A final gag involving Santa Claus might've worked in a mediocre movie, but since this film sucks, the gag falls flat.

By the time Christmas With the Kranks makes its belated stab at becoming a sweet holiday movie instead of a butt-ugly holiday movie, all goodwill has been lost due to stale gags and the sight of Curtis in a bikini and Allen in a Speedo. Hating Christmas can be funny, but not when it involves seeing Tim Allen in revealing swimwear. That's just evil.

Related Film

Christmas With the Kranks

Official Site:

Director: Joe Roth

Writer: John Grisham

Producer: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Bruce A. Block, Allegra Clegg and Charles Newirth

Cast: Tim Allen, Jamie Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Erik Sullivan, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey, M. Emmet Walsh, Elizabeth Franz, René Lavan, Austin Pendleton, Caroline Rhea, Patrick Breen, Felicity Huffman, Tom Poston, Julie Gonzalo and John Short

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