Film — Christmas With The Cranks (PG)

Christmas With The Cranks (PG)

by Amy Diaz

You will partake in Christmas cheer and you will love it, so partake, damn you, partake and be filled with the freakin’ spirit of brotherhood is the central message of the rotten-to-the-pine-cone-core Christmas with the Kranks.

Any movie that tortures you with this brand of slow dripping of syrupy eggnog to the face until you submit to rooting for the novelty-holiday-sweater-wearing characters is pure evil and it is my belief that we as a society should work together to stop this kind of thing from happening. I mean, this movie has it all — the horrible, tinny music, the giant holiday decorations, the tyranny of middle-aged neighborhood do-gooders in vests, carolers in Dickens-era, holiday-color-schemed costumes. Carolers, people. We have to do something. If not for me or for you, for the children. We have to save the children.

From what, you might ask? From this decoractions-mach-frei mentality would be my answer but the good people of Hemlock Lane have another idea. Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank are facing their first childless Christmas in more than 20 years — their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) has headed off for a year in Peru with the Peace Corps. Most parents, faced with an empty nest, kick tradition to the curb and start having grown-up fun again, a solution to the holiday blues suggested by Luther. He wants to take the Mrs. on a cruise through warm climes and, in the process, save about half of the $6,000 they usually spend on an astounding amount of Christmas overkill. Most normal people would, at this point, start shopping for sandals but Nora, though reluctantly willing to go along with the plan, is actually quite horrified. After all, this trade-off requires her to “skip Christmas” (actually, it requires her to skip the commercial trappings of Christmas, but whatever, the movie doesn’t make a distinction so why should you worry your pretty little consumer head about it?). That means no wearing of her appallingly matronly (yet childish) Christmas apparel, no making absurd numbers of cookies, no hosting a gigantic party on Christmas Eve, no overspending on gifts and, most devastating of all, it means no decorations. No tree, no giant Frosty the Snowman on the roof, no home encrusted with lights and assorted other plastic tributes to the holiday. Nora feels to give up such rituals is to test the tempers of the gods and she feels she is proven right when neighbors appear at her doors and windows demanding that she decorate. Cowering behind a window she fretfully asks why, oh why, did they ever turn their backs on conforming with their neighbors in favor of a few days in the sun?

Of course the Kranks soon get what’s coming to them. Blair surprisingly returns on Christmas Eve and wants to introduce her parents to her brand-new Peruvian fiancé and she wants to introduce him to the magic of a Real American Christmas.

Now, some of us might tell Blair that if she’s old enough to get engaged she’s old enough to spend Christmas on a nice tropical boat (she does, after all, call her parents from Miami). But Nora instantly senses that this would be wrong and ultimately begs her neighbors for forgiveness, asking them to please help her create this Christmas miracle for her daughter.

Forget for a moment that the central message of this movie is that those who think for themselves are wrong and should be destroyed. And put aside the blatant consumerism-is-good themes along with the never-cross-the-subdivision side plot. In fact, strip away every bit of rubbish that connects what was once a religious holiday with a very secular, very competitive style of celebrating it and what you are left with is an achingly unfunny movie. This is a movie so sour that even the pratfalls and sightgags make you wince with pain.

Allen’s comedy is not exactly my first choice for humor stylings but his stuff has worked for me in the past. Curtis has had her moments of comedy and of mom-ness and in both cases did so without the shocking frumpiness she displays in this damp sponge of a role.

Skip Christmas? A movie this bad makes you want to skip anything calling itself a family comedy for ever.

- Amy Diaz

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