The last time I checked, Christmas movies were
supposed to be jolly and fun. Sure, there were welcome
exceptions to this rule; the darkness of holiday-themed
pictures in line with, say, Bad Santa, could be
enjoyed. In 2004, however, the film industry, as we know
it, has taken a turn for the worst. Christmas with
the Cranks is the third movie about celebrating the
good, old twenty-fifth of December, to be released this
year (only one of which [The Polar Express] was
actually any good). This film, like the Ben Affleck
bomb, Surviving Christmas, is, in essence, about
insane people who are in desperate need of True Holiday
Spirit to save them from their own wackiness. Let’s just
make one thing clear before I vent about the awfulness
of Christmas with the Kranks: the mentally ill
have no place in Christmas movies.
The makers of Surviving
Christmas had the sense to only shove one loony into
their movie. In Christmas with the Kranks, there
are about thirty of this type of person. The main
focuses of the film are Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen
and Jamie Lee Curtis), a middle-aged couple who has
decided to boycott the usual American Christmas
traditions, in favor of taking a cruise to the
Caribbean, in an effort to save a few thousand dollars.
Since their daughter will not be coming home to
celebrate, as she working with the Peace Corps in South
America, they have no reason to throw a party or
decorate their home, as they both are no longer able to
appreciate such activities. Sounds like a plan, eh?
Well, not quite.
The basic plot is just fine by
me, but it becomes continually worse as it progresses.
Characters start losing their minds, one by one. Luther
is the first to go. Once he confirms his vacation plans,
he does not subtly mention them to his co-workers. Oh,
no; he has to send out an important invoice stating
where he will be going, what he will be doing, why he
will be enjoying it, and that he will not give gifts to
anyone and will, in turn, not accept any, either,
because he has decided that he is too stuck up to do so.
Likewise, he rubs the fact that he will not be hanging
lights on his house or buying a Christmas tree in all of
his neighbors’ faces. He practically screams his way
into some sort of bizarre Christmas-inflicted state of
denial, and seems desperately in need of a psychiatrist.
I won’t even begin to discuss how freakishly scary it is
when he starts taking trips to the local mall’s tanning
salon and receiving BoTox injections in his face.
The Kranks neighbors retaliate
against the Kranks’ decision to skip Christmas with
their own insanity. When critic Eugene Novikov of
calls them “the yuletide Gestapo”, he’s making a huge
understatement. The adults who live in nearby houses
make faces at Luther and his wife and talk to them as if
they’d want to kill them. The kids on the block riot
because the usually friendly couple refuses to put up a
gigantic, plastic statue of a snowman atop their home,
as they always had, in each preceding year. This, of
course, lends to Mrs. Krank’s developing insanity. In
one scene, she’s afraid to walk outside of the house, in
fear of being mobbed by the neighbors. Again, this is
simply because she and Luther have decided to not
celebrate the coming Christmas. In a state of panic, she
calls him up on the telephone, speaking of their
associations as if they’re some kind of Christian
version of al-Qaeda. He suggests that she drive away as
fast as she can, to meet him for a meal. This would most
easily allow her to escape a potential physical assault
from some of the neighbors. Sure enough, once she pulls
out of the driveway, materialistic Christmas-fanatic Vic
Frohmeyer (a wasted Dan Aykroyd), who lives across the
street, hangs onto her window in attempts to talk
“rationally” with her. I’d hate to see what he would’ve
done to Nora in the same situation, had she been Jewish.
Now, I’m not a fool. I know
that the strangely obsessive quirks of the characters in
Christmas with the Kranks are supposed to be
funny. But, they’re not. Soon enough, The Kranks’
daughter telephones home and announces that she and her
new fiancé will be coming home for Christmas, after all.
Better yet: they will be arriving at the airport that
night. Of course, Luther and Nora don’t tell her about
their travel plans, when she calls. Instead, they decide
to give their cruise up and have a normal Christmas.
They hurry to make their usual celebration possible by
buying food and attempting to elevate their Holiday
Spirits. Only those with the same mental problems as the
Kranks and their neighbors will not see this climax
coming. Every other viewer, like me, will find
themselves wondering why they ever spent their
hard-earned money on a ticket, only to be subjected to
such crap. What was I supposed to take from Christmas
with the Kranks? That more people on this earth
should be hospitalized? That movies with as clichéd
endings as this one are still able to rake in more cash
at the box-office than actually creative ones? I’m still
looking for an answer. Maybe ‘Ol Saint Nick will do me
the favor of writing it on a piece of paper, wrapping it
up in a box, and delivering it to me on Christmas Eve.
But, let’s not be silly, now.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews (11.30.2004)