Christmas seems to be a common theme in a lot of movies, but for every A Christmas Story there’s something like Christmas With the Kranks, a movie so repulsive and offensive in its delivery, you feel totally dumber for the time you spent watching it.
Christmas With the Kranks is basically the dumbest, most inept and downright offensive Christmas movie I have ever seen. Some are just bad like Reindeer Games with its ludicrous plot and overacting, mostly by Gary Sinise who has a permanent sneer in the whole movie. Others have a few nuggets that are great. Take the support group therapy scene in Fred Claus where Vince Vaughn doing his Vince Vaughniest visits a support group for people who’ve been overshadowed by their siblings and there’s Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton and Stephen Baldwin there. It’s such a surprise and all seem to get the joke that it works and you really wish they had been more in the movie.
Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfsHMuWn95I
Vaughn would also appear in Four Christmases, which actually had a scene in which his Swingers‘ costar Patrick Van Horn playing his own stepfather and turns into a Ward Cleaver type. It also stars Peter Billingsley in a cameo. It’s not a good movie and neither is Surviving Christmas, which also stars Reindeer Games‘ Ben Affleck. But neither movie is trying to contradict itself every 15-20 minutes until it finally sets up something that would make every Hallmark movie watcher puke.
Kranks came out in 2004 and because Surviving Christmas hit theaters earlier, the title was changed from Skipping Christmas, as it was based on the book by John Grisham, to avoid confusion. Kranks is one of those movies that makes us wonder what the hell the Christmas season is really about and then hits us upside the head like an angry bully. There are bad movies like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians in which we see it’s obviously a man in a polar bear suit and bad sets. In that movie, the green make-up was put on so hastily like a parent who had a last minute change of what they wanted to be for Halloween.
There are so many well-respected and talented people attached to Kranks that it serves the distinction of being the worst of the worst of Christmas movies because of its wasted talent. Not only is this movie based on a book by Grisham, the screenplay is written by Chris Columbus, who is credited as also a producer, and directed by Joe Roth, who is a Hollywood media mogul. But considering Roth’s movies as a director consists of such forgettable movies as Coup de Ville and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, maybe he should stick to helping producing and choosing better directors.
Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luthor and Nora Krank, a Chicago suburbanite couple, who live in a posh neighborhood and have enough money that Luthor calculates they’ve spent over $6,000 in donations, gifts and miscellaneous purchases the previous Christmas. That’s almost $10,000 in today’s market. Their only child, Blair (Julie Gonzalo) leaves the Sunday after Thanksgiving to join the Peace corps. So, Luthor and Nora realizes that maybe they should spend Christmas alone on a tropical cruise. Why not? Other people do it.
But Luthor stipulates he doesn’t want to spend one cent on anything but themselves. He tells people this much to their dismay they’ll be skipping Christmas. Apparently, this angers so many people who were expecting the nice donations and presents from the Kranks. And while Nora goes along with Luthor’s plans, she actually wants to do more. (Doesn’t Nora have her own bank account? She seems to be a housewife but I find it odd in the 21st Century she would be behaving this way) So, yeah, a Chicago yuppie couple isn’t giving out gifts to anyone nor making the usual donations, so people get mad?
The movie never makes either side feel like they are in the right. And Luthor and Nora decide not to decorate their house or property angering Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd badly overacting) who is the self-proclaimed leader of the neighborhood who demands people decorate the houses to his specifications. One of the biggest issues he has is that the Kranks won’t erect an inflatiable Frosty the Snowman on top of their roofs like their neighbors. Whether or not people decorate is their choice but we have scenes of the neighhborhood kids screaming “Free Frosty” and another where Vic joins a group of Christmas carolers in more or less harassing the Kranks with singing.
All the while, Luthor seems to be walking around telling people he’s not donating like someone who turned vegan and wants everyone to know. The fact Allen has come out in the last few years talking against “wokeness” and political correctness and even has a TV series based on the Santa Clause movies that seems to be the “Put the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas” series, makes his assholery performance more believable. And Nora seems to be the goody-goody submissive wife willing to do whatever Luthor wants. This movie was released in 2004. I’m sure a lot of people rolled their eyes. Curtis is a lot of things but this role isn’t like her.
But wait, there’s a twist coming that just about ruins everything for Luthor and Nora and throws the movie into a stupid Home Alone meets National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie. Blair calls from Miami and says she’s making a surprise visit with her fiance, Enrique Decardenal (Rene Lavan), who’s never seen snow before as he’s from Peru. You see Luthor and Nora were about to go on their cruise the next day and now Blair is demanding they throw some big huge Christmas party like they always do. If this doesn’t make you want to scream, nothing will. Blair’s only been in the Peace Corp four weeks and already engaged. Yet, Nora acts like she hasn’t spoken to Blair in four years and says yes, they’re throwing their party as usual.
So, now, we get a mad-cap sequence of Luthor and Nora try to scramble and decorate the house and find food, especially a certain type of ham that Blair likes, on Christmas Eve. In reality, what they should’ve said was, “Blair, you should’ve told us you were coming. We’re not going to be here. We’re going on a cruise. You’re an adult now! You need to start acting like one! First thing is stop expecting people to cater to you. ” For God’s sake, you never surprise people like this, especially around the holidays. I don’t care what anyone says. There’s a common courtesy we need to have.
Now, if you’re wondering did Columbus and Roth take a lot of liberties with Grisham’s novel. Well, no. He actually made Blair and Enrique arriving in Chicago part of the novel, as well as Luthor and Nora running around trying to get everything done. And what happens next will make you want to want to fucking shoot your TV set or toss your tablet or smartphone into the fireplace. After Luthor and Nora stress themselves out, the whole neighborhood comes to their aide with Vic leading the way.
So, these people have been busting their balls half the movie about not conforming. Yet now, that they are rushing around to make Blair so fucking happy, they band together and put on a Christmas party for spoiled-rotten brat Blair. Give me a fucking break! Then, there’s a subplot about the two Keystone Kops Salino (Cheeck Marin) and Treen (Jake Busey) going to pick them up at the airport but having to deal with a burglar on the way back, hence the Home Alone reference.
The movie then tries to be emotional with Luthor realizing how everyone came together to help them that he gives the cruise tickets to his neighbor, Walt Scheel (M. Emmet Walsh) who’s also been riding his case like Vic, because Walt’s wife, Bev (Elizabeth Franz) has cancer. What’s messed up is Walt and Bev are at their home away from the Kranks’ Christmas party which in my opinion negates everything else we’ve seen. So, Vic and everyone else were able to give Blair the Christmas she wanted, but the Scheels are sitting at home alone ignored. There’s a line of dialogue that is passed that indicates their son is estranged as well. Jesus Christ, if there was one couple that really needed the Christmas spirit, it’s Walt and Bev and definitely not Luthor and Nora. And definitely not Blair and Enrique who spend the rest of the movie reacting to the craziness.
But that’s the problem with this movie, it perverts its own message. Christmas is supposed to be about people coming together and expressing their love, good old-fashioned Christian love, for one another. Instead, it becomes just another moment for a bunch of well-to-do yuppie scum to have a party with more food than some people eat in a week or a month. I feel sorry that Gonzalo and Curtis had to play such self-centered characters. I could care less for Allen because he is self-centered.
Not even Austin Pendleton, who is usually a delight to watch, who has a small but crucial role can save this movie. It starts off by telling us that we become too focused on holiday gifts, decorations and parties but then it pulls the rug out and tells us we should do it if other people expect that because they used to be a babysitter. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed my Christmas traditions almost annually because it needs to be changed.
So far this holiday season, I’ve seen two people I know, two sets of families to be precise, on holiday cruises. I personally think anyone should do a Christmas for themselves at least once in their life if they have the means As couples get older and their kids get involved in relationships and do things with their partners and their families, I think those with the means should take a trip somewhere just the two of them. And while the Kranks maybe should have donated a little here and there, just because they didn’t doesn’t make them awful people. A lot of yuppies in the suburbs won’t put a dollar in the Salvation Army kettle drum.
One of the strangest moments is when Tom Poston, who plays Father Zabrieske, a priest, shows up at the Kranks’ party. It’s not like Catholics don’t have a thing called mass on Christmas Eve. For someone like Allen, who bemoans everytime someone says “Happy Holidays,” this movie only seems to show how nerve-wracking the holidays could be. And Allen made this in between the second and third Santa Clause movie so you wonder if he needed the money to attach his name to something like this. Then, he turns around and wags his finger at people who don’t follow his strict Christian conservative beliefs as we’re wrong.
This movie is wrong on so many levels. It almost made $100 million at the box office off a $60 million budget (which might be the most surprising thing since I definitely didn’t see $60 million on screen, unless it was mostly paid the actors.) And if it was, hopefully at least they didn’t decide to skip Christmas and help others out in real life.
To end with a quote by the late Roger Ebert: “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it..”
What do you think? Please comment.