“Christmas with the Kranks” (2004) Review


(Image source: System Mastery)

“As odd as it sounds, I didn’t think of asking the BUTCHER where the CHOCOLATE was!” shouts the maniacal Luther Krank (played by Tim Allen) at his wife, Nora Krank (played by Jamie Lee Curtis)–all while Luther awkwardly stands out in the pouring rain. It is just one odd interaction in a film chock full of odd interactions–and is one of the main reasons why “Christmas with the Kranks” is my all-time favorite Christmas movie and has been for as long as I can remember.

The gist of this trainwreck of a film is that Luther and Nora Krank are two parents who have just sent their daughter Blair off to the Peace Corps for the holiday season. Known for their usual zeal for Christmas festivities, the Kranks have instead decided to “skip Christmas” for a change and spend the most wonderful time of the year on a tropical cruise. That means no lights, no tree, no presents, no Christmas cards and no famous Krank family Christmas party. Conflict ensues when the Kranks’ fanatical, Christmas-loving neighbors find out about their plan and set out to sabotage their vacation, helping them rediscover the spirit of Christmas (capitalism and tradition) in the process.

Released in 2004, the movie was directed by film executive Joe Roth, known for such classics as “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” and “The Jerky Boys: The Movie.” The real talent recruited for this movie, however, was Chris Columbus, director of “Home Alone” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” and writer of “Gremlins” and “The Goonies.” For whatever reason, Columbus did not step up to the plate when he took the reins of the movie’s script and it really shows in its poor quality.

This is where the worst (and yet somehow most enjoyable) part of the movie comes into play: all of the Kranks’ neighbors are written like bizarre aliens who would never exist in the real world. They are all completely bananas, stopping at nothing to uphold consumerist Christmas tradition on Hemlock Street. Stalking, harassment, trespassing and repeated antagonizing phone calls are just some of the lengths they will go to in order to bend the Kranks to their will.

As Luther, Tim Allen plays the character that he seems to play in every film that he’s in, except this time, he’s less witty and charismatic, and instead becomes petty and neurotic, taking great joy in handing out memos to each of his coworkers informing them of the Krank Christmas hiatus. As Nora, Jamie Lee Curtis plays an overprotective mother whose optimism is the festive foil to Luther’s devilish anti-Christmas schemes.

The most notable neighbor of them all is Vic Frohmeyer (played by Dan Aykroyd), the “commander-in-chief” of Hemlock Street, where the Kranks reside. Part of the Kranks’ “skipping Christmas” plans stipulate that they will not put up Christmas decorations or buy a Christmas tree, much to the ire of their neighbors. In the book that the film is based on, author John Grisham explains how Hemlock Street is famous for winning the neighborhood Christmas light contest every year, and how the Kranks’ deviation from their usual festivities obviously throws a wrench into the street’s chances of winning. In the film, however, this important tidbit is left out, leaving the viewers in complete shock as Vic Frohmeyer orchestrates the Krank family harassment campaign.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I highly recommend everyone go and watch this film. Currently, it stands at a 5% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes–but it’s just proof that a bad movie isn’t always an unenjoyable movie.