What do you get when Chris Columbus writes a film adaptation of a John Grisham comedy starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Akroyd and that kid who played Dewey on Malcolm in the Middle? If you guessed Christmas with the Kranks, you would be wrong. The correct answer was a complete and utter disaster.
Christmas with the Kranks, based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas, depicts an unbearable WASP couple Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank moaning about their empty nest as their daughter heads off to Peru for the Peace Corps. Since their daughter, a person with no personality traits to speak of, won’t be home for Christmas, Luther concocts a scheme to go to the Bahamas and skip Christmas. He presents this plan to Nora, who agrees once he shows how much money they’ll save. See? Rich people spend their money on extravagant vacations overseas, not on frivolous things such as avocado toast made by the coffee shop down the block.
Instead of being a dramedy about emptynesting, however, this movie takes an immediate turn for the stupid. Luther prints up a memo on company letterhead declaring that he and his wife will not be celebrating Christmas this year, and passes it out to all of his co-workers. Instead of ignoring the letter or asking what the meaning of such a bizarre memo is, his co-workers instead act offended. How dare this random guy at the office not celebrate Christmas? We all celebrate Christmas! Or maybe they were actually offended because he wasted company letterhead, and they all care deeply about the company’s bottom line.
Later, when the door-to-door Christmas tree salesman (is that even a thing? Comment below if that’s a thing) comes by and tries to sell a tree to Tim Allen, Tim tells him that they aren’t celebrating Christmas. This leads to the tree guy to irrationally become irate, and then go tell the neighbors on him. Dan Akroyd is particularly offended. The passive aggressive actions of the asshole neighbors move to full-on aggressive when the Kranks refuse to put a giant plastic Frosty the Snowman on their roof. Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle leads a protest mob outside the Krank house, chanting, “Free Frosty!”, harassing the Kranks over the phone, and otherwise terrorizing these rich suburbanites who dared to not celebrate Christmas with decorations and a giant Frosty the Snowman.
Whereas Dan Akroyd seems to just want the Kranks to conform, the neighbor across the street, some geezer with a terminally ill wife, seems to have a personal vendetta against Tim Allen. Probably because Tim Allen keeps stepping on the old man’s cat. (Tim even transforms his garden hose into Mr. Freeze’s ice ray and freezes the cat to the point of having CGI cartoon eyeballs.) He invites a newspaper photographer to get a photo of the light-free Krank house, and allows him to get a good shot from the top of his roof. When a wild pack of carolers come to the neighborhood, he sicks them on the Kranks. Since there is a gas leak in this town, the carolers don’t take the hint that the Kranks aren’t interested. Instead, they keep singing “Jingle Bells” louder and with a more frantic pace. Since the Kranks still won’t… well, I’m actually not sure what the carolers are wanting. Liquor maybe? Since the Kranks won’t give them liquor (or whatever), they then try to scare the shit out of them by creeping up to their windows, spying on them, and breaking into song whenever a Krank approaches. The Kranks, meanwhile, can’t call the cops because Tim Allen wouldn’t buy a hot cop calendar from Cheech and the son of Gary Busey.
The whole movie changes when their bland daughter calls on Christmas Eve morning. Well, no. First Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle harasses them on the phone, then the daughter calls. Guess what! SHE’S COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS… RIGHT NOW!!! Oh, and she’s engaged to some guy she met in Peru. Yes, she only left after Thanksgiving, but time doesn’t seem to exist in Krankletown.
The movie is now a wacky comedy about two unlikeable people scrambling to put together a big Christmas party because neither parent had the integrity to tell their daughter, “Oh, hey, we thought you weren’t going to be here this year, so we’re not doing that.” This part of the movie is mostly Tim Allen trying to do physical comedy. I would say he wouldn’t stop improvising, but I’m pretty sure it was all scripted. Tim Allen tries to buy a tree, but crashes into the one tree left at the lot. That tree is a sickly and desiccated, but it’s the only one left, so Tim buys it. Because he didn’t buy a tree when the only tree salesman in town (why he does door-to-door sales when he has a lot and no competition is beyond my understanding) went to his door, the man charges Tim $75 for what could only be used for kindling. Tim throws it on the roof of his car without strapping it down, but don’t worry. The movie doesn’t notice. When he gets home, he grabs the strapless tree to notice that all its pines have fallen off. What a shame.
Jamie Lee Curtis, meanwhile, has two shopping-related mishaps. She has to go grocery shopping for a giant can of ham. Why a giant can of ham and not a real ham? Because… I don’t know. Maybe it’s a midwest thing? If you know the significance of this giant can of ham, please leave a comment below. (Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!) She gets into a race for the last can of ham against a woman who isn’t pushing a grocery cart, and loses. She tries to buy one off a person in the checkout lane and fails, so instead she buys three head-on fish. You know. Instead of a fresh ham. Or. Turkey. Or making a nut roast or something. She then goes to the liquor store where she meets some creep who seems to know all about her. For no reason, she invites the dude to her Christmas party.
Later, when Tim tries to mount Frosty to his roof, he ties a noose around its neck to pull it up. Were the neighbors outraged? Did they think he was hanging Frosty? No. The movie didn’t seem to notice. Instead, the gag is that Frosty falls from the roof, dragging Tim with him, causing Tim to comically hang from his feet upside down. When the rescue crew arrives, one of the firefighters in the background is smacked in the head with a ladder. Don’t worry. The movie didn’t notice. Tim and Jamie Lee Curtis tell Dan Akroyd about how their daughter is on her way to town, and suddenly, the whole movie changes…again.
It’s now a sentimental tale about coming together for the holidays. The neighbors conjure up a whole Christmas party for the Kranks, instead of just inviting the Kranks over to one of their already-prepared homes. That creep from the liquor store comes over. Cheech and Son of Busey pick up Daughter and Enrique, the daughter’s fiancé, from the airport. Cheech Marin doesn’t know how to spell Enrique, so he holds up a sign that says “En-Reeky.” They pick up a criminal on the way home.
Nothing much happens at the party. The creep from the liquor store is revealed to be named Martin—Martin Kringle. You know, Martin Kringle! No? Okay. Moving on. Tim gives a bad toast. Jamie Lee Curtis is upset, then becomes more angry because Tim still wants to go to the Bahamas. The criminal tries to rob them. Tim goes over to the old geezer’s house and gives him and his terminally ill wife an unopened can of ham. They accept it reluctantly. Tim then gives them his vacation package. The terminally ill wife mentions how her doctor doesn’t want her to travel, but Tim insists. They accept it, and happy music swells. The criminal is caught and Martin Kringle transforms into the creepy umbrella salesman who was very briefly in the film earlier. The film ends with an old VW Beetle being pulled through the sky by reindeer. Who was piloting that Bug? Why, none other than Martin Kringle!
This movie is nonsense, but I still encourage that you watch it. If you want something good, watch something else. If you want to challenge your mind to come up with an explanation for what this movie is or why, give it a go. It’s free on Amazon Prime and Hulu.
What Have We Learned
- Always invite creepy alcoholics to your holiday parties because they might be named Martin Kringle.
- Conform to the whims of your neighbors, or they will terrorize you.
- Garden hoses double as ice rays in the winter.
- Unopened cans of ham are essential to keeping your young adult daughter happy.
- Being a crotchety old man will land you an all-expenses-paid vacation to the Bahamas, but only if your wife is dying.