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May 12, 2006 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 12, 2006 |

If your holiday has got you bemoaning the idiosyncrasies of your dysfunctional family, put things back in perspective with Christmas with the Kranks, a movie so dislikable you’ll be thankful for that afternoon Turkey bitch-fest with your harebrained relatives. The thing is, you only think you hate spending your Thanksgiving with that crazy uncle of yours who pardons his turkey belchings with an ode to giblets. That sort of mild annoyance compares not to the cinematic turkey that director Joe Roth has left us to feast over. Spend a mere 102 minutes (or however long you can stand it) watching an adaptation of a John Grisham Christmas novel and you can eliminate all that built-up hatred from your system. Call it a yuletide enema, if you will. After experiencing an afternoon with the Kranks, your capacity for familial animosity will drain away; unfortunately, so might your will to live.

Christmas with the Kranks — directed with all the brilliance Joe Roth had left over in his tiny little brain after helming America’s Sweethearts and Revenge of the Nerds II — depicts Luther and Nora Krank (Allen and Curtis), who have decided to forego Christmas this year because their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) has run off to South America on a Peace Corps mission. The film’s one-note joke, of course, is that you can’t just skip Christmas, because either our consumer-driven society simply won’t allow it or because Santa Claus will kidnap your loved ones and leave them hogtied and gagged in a back alleyway.

In a nihilistic endeavor to compel the Kranks to endure the holiday season and all its materialistic trappings, the neighborhood busybodies, led by Vic Frohmeyer (another hapless Dan Akroyd performance), metaphorically boo and hiss at all their efforts by, for instance, cramming Christmas carols down their throats with military fastidiousness or leaving countless crank calls, imploring Luther and Nora to install a Donnie Darko-ish eight-foot Frosty the Snowman decoration on their roof. All of this obnoxiousness, of course, is compliments of the proper Christmas spirit.

Could this celluloid hairshirt get any worse? You bet! After the insufferable neighbors have done everything short of a public lynching and a front-lawn cross-burning, and the Kranks still haven’t budged, screenwriter Chris Columbus stoops to a new low: He drags out an old lady with cancer to guilt the Kranks into submission, again to little avail. No sir. The Kranks simply refuse to give in to all that Christmas cheer until their daughter is ripped from the clutches of the Peace Corps and returned to suburbia, where she can finally do some goddamn good with her life.

Of course their daughter returns. And of course the entire community rallies around her homecoming, frantically turning the Krank home into an ostentatious fucking Christmas ornament, with the assistance of none other than Cheech Marin, whose sole contribution to the film, it seems, is to remind us how much better off we’d be if we were at home watching “COPS” and smoking some reefer.

Aside from a one-minute slapstick moment involving Tim Allen and Botox that’s already been seen in the commercials, Christmas with the Kranks is a joyless exercise in pain tolerance, though Jamie Lee Curtis does manage to let out that bloodcurdling scream of hers more times than she did in Halloween. What’s worse, though, is the message that Christmas with the Kranks sends, which is that if you don’t buy into the rapacious merriment of Christmas, then you must either be the bastard offspring of Mr. Potter and The Grinch, or, according to these filmmakers, something even lower: A Jew.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Christmas with the Kranks / Dustin Rowles

Film | May 12, 2006 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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