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CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS

SYNOPSIS:
Luther Krank (Tim Allen) is fed up with the costs associated with Christmas and decides to skip it, planning instead a Caribbean cruise holiday with his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis). The decision is made easier by their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) being sent to Peru for Christmas by the Peace Corps. Luther manages to convince Nora to leave snowy Chicago and go on the sunny cruise, but when he refuses to buy a Christmas tree from the scouts, contribute to the police community fund or to put his illuminated frosted snowman on the roof like everyone else in the street, the neighbours are aghast and angry, as a battle of wills erupts. But then Blair phones with a change of planes and plans; she's coming home for the famous traditional Christmas Eve party after all - along with new fiance Enrique (Rene Lavan), and cranky Krank has to settle the dispute, organise a slap up celebration that is in keeping with the Hemlock Street traditions, as if nothing had happened.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are a few good laughs in Christmas With The Kranks, largely due to the winning presence of Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, but the film falls down in its core concept of dishing up guilt on a platter. The notion of bullying people into succumbing into the trappings of Christmas does not necessarily represent goodwill to all, and while the situations present good comic opportunities, the film ends up feeling rather manipulative and sugary.

That's not to say there isn't fun to be had with The Kranks. I am still chuckling over the sight of Allen with an over-dose of botox and Curtis in an itzy bitzy bikini at the solarium, trying to hide her curves from the local minister who happens to be passing. Allen and Curtis make the most of every minute, as they hide from the neighbours and virtually become prisoners when they are made to feel mean.

Based on John Grisham's novel, Skipping Christmas, Luther and Nora Krank decide to do just that, and spend the money set aside for cards, gifts, a tree and their traditional Christmas Eve party, on a self-indulgent Caribbean cruise. Why stay home, when everything is different now that daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) has left the nest and gone to Peru with the Peace Corps? Swapping galoshes for a tan never sounded so good. But what the Kranks don't count on is the hostility from the close-knit community led by Dan Aykroyd's Vic Frohmeyer, who has a dictator-like attitude about Christmas decorations, carol-singers and the two meter Frosty snowman who each year presides on the rooftop. Everybody's rooftop. As they are packing their suitcase, with neighbourhood hostilities at their peak, the phone rings and an excited Blair tells them she and her new fiancé will be home for Christmas, after all. Then it's a matter of doing what has already been undone. Getting a Hickory Honey Ham for the table and a beautiful Christmas tree when it is clearly too late, offers comedy situations (who would have ever thought of borrowing a neighbour's fully decorated tree?), and there's mayhem as Luther and Nora set about to create the traditional Christmas that Blair expects to find.

If overkill is the intention, Chris Columbus' script has succeeded. Both he and director Joe Roth (America's Sweethearts) play it for laughs. By story's end, when sentimentality hones in and we feel totally manipulated, the idea of skipping Christmas and getting away from it all, sounds more and more appealing. Reverse psychology, perhaps. How much fun you will have with the Kranks depends on how easy-to-please you are feeling. It's a mindless holiday comedy, and Allen and Curtis are certainly in good form.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If it weren't for the appeal and talents of Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, Christmas With The Kranks would be an even bigger bore than it is. Loud, brash and overstated, the film has all the downsides of a situation comedy and none of the upsides - like brevity. Even at a modest 98 minutes, the film plays like a two hour movie, without an ounce of subtlety. Everything is pushed to its unnatural limits, from the mother who gets hysterical with happiness at the mere sound of her daughter on the phone (never mind the heartbreak of not seeing her for 48 hours) to the pathetic neighbours who behave like Luther's stolen their reason for living by wanting to opt out of his Christmas.

This frenetic tone - over something that is basically fake sentimentality and schmalz - is the headwind against which film's better instincts (and its stars) have to fight. Yes I can see that behind the fakery is a genuine intention to glorify man's finer nature, a sense of community and benevolence, but it shouldn't require a gushing fountain of situation gags to ram the message home. Perhaps if it weren't a one joke movie, it wouldn't be necessary to have the first half of the film as an endless loop of the joke.

The joke is rather thin, too; after a few giggles, it turns into a lumpy burden. And what do you make of a community that bullies its members into conformity, with such hard hearted earnestness - whether it's about Christmas or not? The Nazi syndrome is just below the surface here, which only detracts from the jokey tone.

But Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis bring their credibility and comedic instincts to their roles; Allen's reluctant bonhomie when fate conspires against him is the best thing in the film. There are a handful of comic scenes and some funny lines of dialogue, a frozen feline as a payoff to a running gag about Frank and his antipathetic relationship with the neighbouring cat, but the absence of anything resembling reality is a hindrance. Besides, I can only take so many songs (and versions of them) that jingle with White Christmas, Blue Christmas, Merry Christmas etc etc etc, before wanting to throttle the soundtrack, which also bristles with John Debney's garlanded score full of derivative cues that adorn musical Christmas cards or fanfares of tra la la. Skip it.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS (PG)
(US)

CAST: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Gonzalo, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Martin, Jake Busey, M. Emmett Walsh

PRODUCER: Michael Barnathan,Chris Columbua, Mark Radcliffe

DIRECTOR: Joe Roth

SCRIPT: Christopher Columbus (novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess

EDITOR: Nick Moore

MUSIC: John Debney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Garreth Stover

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 2, 2004

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: July 6, 2005







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