CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS (Joe Roth, 2004)
What better way is there to get into a festive spirit than having it crammed down your throat? The holiday-skipping protagonists learn this in CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS. As Luther and Nora Krank, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis are usually in a celebratory mood come late December; however, with their daughter planning to spend Christmas in Peru volunteering with the Peace Corps, the Kranks decide to bypass the holiday entirely and go on a cruise. Their refusal to participate in any seasonal customs enrages the neighbors and establishes a battleground outside the Kranks’ home.
The first half of CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS portrays a suburban nightmare, a world where the holidays equate with knee-jerk conformity and excess consumerism. This scenario presents a terrific opportunity for a satiric examination of enforced Christmas cheer and misplaced priorities, but director Joe Roth and screenwriter Chris Columbus end up siding with the fascist neighbors. The Kranks may be selfish and ungenerous, but that doesn’t put their bullying, self-righteous friends and acquaintances in the clear. The ugliness extends to the prefabricated “winter” setting, cinematography that reveals every wrinkle in the stars’ faces, and Curtis’ shrill performance. We’re told that it’s the thought that counts when given gifts. The same doesn’t apply to unwelcome holiday films. CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is one of the year’s worst.
(Review first aired on the December 7, 2004 NOW PLAYING)