There was a time, a very weird time, when Tim Allen was the king of Christmas. He played Santa Claus in two VERY big movies and then he tried to keep the ball rolling with this one, I guess, though it hasn’t exactly captured a coveted ‘Christmas classic’ slot.
Christmas With The Kranks is confusing. Let’s start with that. Luther (Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank are opting out of Christmas this year. Their only daughter has gone to South America to join the Peace Corps so they’re unencumbered and just not motivated to go through the whole rigamarole. They’re going on a Caribbean cruise instead. Sound nice? Well you’re an idiot. For some reason, in this film, every single of one of the Kranks’ colleagues, friends, and neighbours shits all over them for daring to make this decision. You might believe that every person has the right to celebrate or not, but you’d be wrong, at least in the Kranks universe.
Here’s where it lost me: the movie itself is disgusted with Luther and Nora for their selfish decision. They’re called the KRANKS – they’re Scrooges and we’re not supposed to approve. And because they’re such Christmas-hating freaks, everyone in the movie feels entitled to bully them. Luther’s secretary shames him for his past gifts. Nora’s pastor judges her bikini body. The town devotes the entire front page of their newspaper to humiliating them (the entire front page! because they’re skipping Christmas!).The neighbours, led by busybody Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), pretty much make war. They wage a campaign on their house as if Christmas is not a choice. They harass poor Nora, they chase down her car, they do things I am 100% sure are chargeable offenses. Nora in particular is terrorized by them.
Which brings up something truly special: Christmas With The Kranks is a comedy. Jamie Lee Curtis plays it like it’s a Christmas-themed horror movie. Every single thing she does is over the top, manic, panic-stricken, terrified.
Someone rang the doorbell?
You suspect the boy scouts are gossiping about you?
The Christmas ham you prefer isn’t available?
But while Jamie Lee Curtis is delighting me with her wacky and unnecessary performance, her character is majorly bumming me out. Nora Krank is one of those characters who I hope only exists in movies: she lives solely to be a mother. Her whole life is her daughter – when the daughter is gone, Christmas is pointless, but when the daughter suddenly announces she’s coming home for Christmas with no notice whatsoever (rude!), Nora drops all previous plans (remember that once in a lifetime trip worth thousands of dollars?) to throw together a Christmas with no food or decorations or gifts or guests or time to prepare. Which is when their neighbours all band together to help them out and the Kranks eat crow, apologizing for their previous bad behaviour and thanking their neighbours for being so wonderful.
But, like: WHAT???? I’m so steamed that the neighbours not only don’t get their comeuppance but their inexcusable, illegal behaviour is for some reason validated??? I mean honestly, if they had behaved this way to a non-white family it would be a hate crime.