Wayback Wednesday: Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

These neighbours can fuck all the way off.

When I discovered that Christmas with the Kranks (2004) had an embarrassingly low rating of 5 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, I was SHOCKED. Sure, I don’t remember this being a particularly exceptional Christmas movie, and it’s not like it’s a fan favourite that’s worth strongly defending, but wow. I certainly wasn’t expecting as negative a reception as that. This was my first time watching Christmas with the Kranks in a handful of years and after doing so, it turns out that I’m compelled to agree with Rotten Tomatoes. There are a few cute moments here and there, but ultimately this is one Christmas movie you’re good to skip. 

Credit: imdb.com / Sony Pictures Releasing

Based on the novel “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham, Christmas with the Kranks follows Luther and Nora Krank, a couple who decide to skip all of their regular Christmas traditions the first holiday season since their daughter has moved away. Unknowingly offending their neighbours who thrive on Christmas traditions, Luther and Nora are berated  into celebrating Christmas like everyone else. 

Ok, first things first, how did I not know this was based on a JOHN GRISHAM book?! Does it not shock anyone else that the acclaimed writer of legal thrillers wrote a comedic novel about skipping Christmas? Since when did that happen? My mom and I did a double-take when that credit appeared onscreen. Oh, and speaking of writing, how did I also not know that director Chris Columbus wrote the screenplay?! The director of Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)? Wow. I was fully not expecting Christmas with the Kranks to floor me like this but here we are. To be fair, this was never a holiday staple in my house, so it’s no surprise that I don’t know so much about it. Of course, the reason why it wasn’t a staple in my house is simple: I find this movie unbearable.

For me, watching this movie is practically unbearable solely because the neighbours piss me off so damn much. So the Kranks want to save money, pass on the usual traditions for the first year their daughter is gone, and go on a cruise. So what? How about you mind your own business? I realize your neighbourhood has some traditions, but that doesn’t give you the right to stand on someone’s lawn and DEMAND that they celebrate a holiday. Ugh, this movie makes me so mad. I don’t think I want to watch it again. Like, ever. It’s hard to enjoy this movie because it gets me well and truly steamed. Also, Tim Allen is not the most gifted of actors to watch. 

Allen has a reputation for appearing in quite a few Christmas movies. By the way, I watched  The Santa Clause (1994) the other day (another Christmas movie not often viewed in my house) and wow, I had a startling revelation. I really can’t stand Allen in any non-Buzz Lightyear role. Aside from not being a terrific actor, he’s incapable of playing anything but the same character over and over again. Seriously, watch any of Allen’s movies and you’ll undoubtedly see him playing the gruff, unsympathetic man who treats everyone terribly and then instantly learns what it means to love others at the end of the movie. As Luther Krank, Allen is predictably lacklustre. His performance comes off as bland, repulsive, and thoroughly unlikeable, a trait common with pretty much every character in this movie. Seriously, everyone in this movie is a complete asshole.

Except for Nora Krank. I always remember Jamie Lee Curtis as being the best part of Christmas with the Kranks and Im relieved to report that she absolutely remains the shining star of this movie. Nora may be a simple role for such a fantastic actress as Curtis, but she plays the part wonderfully. Her natural charisma shines through and easily makes her the most endearing part of this holiday comedy. Honestly, Curtis could have headlined this movie on her own and it would have been 10 times more enjoyable. Let me just say this though: The wardrobe, makeup, and prop departments really did Curtis so dirty. They fully had this vibrant 46-year-old woman done up as a grandma. Frumpy clothing, knitting, sitting at home waiting for her husband… Curtis deserves so much better. Always. 

I think that the premise is a fun idea for a story but the big problem with Christmas with the Kranks is that the central conflict doesn’t make any sense. All of the conflict feels manufactured. Like, I get that obviously characters in movies don’t always act like people do in real life, but come on: Would an entire neighbourhood of people really treat others like pariahs for simply choosing not to celebrate Christmas? It’s still not the neighbours or his co-workers business, but Luther doesn’t have to be so blunt and dismissive of the entire holiday season. You can still be nice to people and support local charities without turning everyone against you. I get that there’s no story if he actually conveys their plan in a reasonable way, but it’s just wildly unrealistic to me. Both the hostile way he goes about it and their overwhelming reaction. This movie handles nothing with delicacy. 

Sure, the Kranks are rude in the beginning, but the neighbours are downright vindictive and disrespectful with no boundaries. I audibly screamed “fuck off!” to the neighbours when they gathered on the Kranks lawn and screamed at their house, demanded that they put up a Frosty decoration. Have they forgotten all the good that the Kranks have done over the years? Also, Nora is out here serving at a homeless shelter and volunteering at a children’s hospital. What are you doing Dan Aykroyd? Do you feel so much more Christmas-y because you have a stupid snowman on your roof? Ugh, this movie makes my blood boil.  What makes me even more mad is the unearned message of the binds of community it attempts to tack on at the end. All of these people kind of hate each other. Maybe they’re all chummy in December but what about the other 11 months of the year?

Although I love Jamie Lee Curtis with all my heart, I think from now on I’m going to give Christmas with the Kranks a skip come December. It’s certainly not the most atrocious holiday movie out there (I’m pretty sure one of Netflix’s hundreds of originals claims that honour) but for me personally, I just don’t think I could stomach watching it again. In addition to all the reasons I listed above, I don’t think I’m strong enough to endure a spray-tanned Tim Allen in a speedo again. I’ll stick to watching Home Alone (1990) for the 80,000th time. By the way, check out my review for that movie, here!

Are you a fan of Christmas with the Kranks? What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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