Based on a novel by, believe it or not, John Grisham, Christmas With The Kranks is a comedy from 2004 starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple who decide to skip Christmas altogether when their daughter tells them she has to go to Peru for a Peace Corps assignment, much to the anger and disbelief of their neighbours.
While the film did well at the box-office, critics were much less enthusiastic and it still holds a surprisingly low rating on Rotten Tomatoes and other sites. Maybe the corny poster and the fact it's yet another holiday-themed Tim Allen-starring family-friendly flick made it easy to dismiss as a trashy cash-in or maybe there's just something about Christmas With The Kranks that didn't sit well with people. On the surface, this is a pretty harmless film about a couple engaged in a goofy tit-for-tat battle with the neighbourhood, sort of like in the equally despised Deck The Halls. There's nothing harsh or particularly unpredictable about it, it's just the usual by-numbers Christmas movie all the family can pretty much sit back and enjoy without really thinking too much and chewing on some turkey leftovers. We all know that the Krank family and the whole town will come together in the end thanks to good old Christmas spirit.
After Luther (Allen) convinces his wife Nora (Curtis) to skip the usual Christmas traditions and set off on a romantic getaway in the Caribbean instead, they are both met with a vitriolic response from the entire town who are offended by their sudden decision. Neighbours Dan Aykroyd and M. Emmet Walsh are particularly unhelpful as they constantly try to force Christmas onto the genuinely terrified couple and it's only when they learn that their daughter will, in fact, be coming home for Christmas that they change their tone and join forces to put together a big party for the Kranks. While this leads to some bonding between the family and their neighbours, this doesn't change the fact that Luther and Nora were unjustly harassed and humiliated for days just because they wanted to do things differently for once. It's this pro-conformity, pro-consumerist message that kills the Christmas spirit the film was going for, unfortunately. Luckily, there are enough fun moments prior to that to keep Christmas With The Kranks under the "mostly harmless Christmas movie" banner.
While it is definitely flawed and Jamie Lee Curtis overacts more than she probably should, Christmas With The Kranks isn't the worst movie ever most reviewers would have you believe. It's all pretty light-hearted, well-meaning and there are some funny and heartfelt moments in there. The script just needed to make up its mind about what the film was trying to say.
Average, silly Christmas comedy.