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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: Christmas with the Kranks (2004) - 12 Days of Christmas Movies #4

Plot: After their daughter announces she will not be coming home for Christmas the Kranks (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) decide to forgo Christmas for a cruise, much to the chagrin of their neighbors.

Review:  Christmas movies are supposed to provide a little bit of hope, that the world is not the ugly place we all suspect it to be - that underneath it all, there is good in the world.  This film seems to preach a different message.  It is an uneven holiday farce that has the Kranks taking on an entire town that has nothing better to do than to berate a family for going on holiday rather than celebrating one.  Things get even zanier when they find out that their daughter is actually coming home and they need to stage the massive Christmas party they just cancelled. 

Based in a reality that I have never know, the majority of the film feels false.  The characters never feel like real people, most the time acting in a way that people simply do not act.  Whether it is the intrusive carolers that are so desperate to have their song heard they peer into windows of the home or two women rolling across the aisles of the supermarket in a fight for the last honey baked ham - almost every character and every scenario feel off.  The ineffectiveness of the phony characters and the paper thin plot are only multiplied by the addition of some poorly fitting slapstick humor.  Maybe the odd mix of humor is there to distract you from the senseless plot.  There is not a conflict in the film that could not be resolved with a 30 second, truthful conversation. The results are a predictable, unauthentic, holiday film that is difficult to relate.  I understand it is a comedy and you are supposed to suspend disbelief, but it is tough when the entire film is comprised of awkward, forced scenarios including a not so unexpected Santa cameo.  

With all that said, the film still does provide some softer, saccharine sweet moments that too feel false, but do counter some of the ugliness that takes place.  If you are looking for a holiday film to watch with the kids, this is probably not it - the message is all wrong and poorly told.  If you are downing some egg nog (you know, the good kind) and you want something Christmas-ish on the TV while you do so, you can do worse.
4.5 out of 10

Christmas Joy Grade:  I can't really say that is message of conformity is very joyful or that the bullish way the neighbors treat each ot
her is an example of "do on to other as you would like done to you," or that the focus on the materialistic aspects of the holiday are anything but of putting, but when the neighborhood works together to provide Claire with an old-fashioned Krank Christmas, it kind of works... that is until the next in a long line of awkward, forced moment derails any true feeling of Christmas joy.  D+

Christmas Choke-up Grade:  Not much here to stir up any real emotion besides one scene at the end that surprisingly works even while surrounded by so much other things that don't.  B-

Memorable Lines:

Marty:  I really think you need an umbrella!
(That's the best I could do.)

Did You Know?:
The film has several appearances by former classic sitcom actors including Tom Poston (Newhart)  and David Lander (Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley.) 

The films is based on a book by John Grisham, the author of The Firm, The Client and A Time to Kill.

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