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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Zade Rosenthal)

photo caption:
EMPTY-NESTERS' CHRISTMAS DECISIONS: Luther, (Tim Allen, left) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) discuss the options available to them as they contemplate spending their first Christmas without their daughter.
end caption.

"Christmas With the Kranks" Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as Holiday Holdouts in Uninspired Dud

Review by Kam Williams

On paper, Christmas With the Kranks reads like a "can't miss"comedy with a lot more potential than the lump of coal that's been dumped in our cinema stocking this holiday season. It stars Tim Allen (The Santa Clause 1 & 2) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Freaky Friday), both of whom are known for this sort of family fare.

Also, the production is stocked with comedians Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Caroline Rhea, and Tom Poston. Rounding out the supporting cast are character actors M. Emmet Walsh and Jake Busey.

The movie was directed by Joe Roth (whose previous picture, America's Sweethearts, was a hit) and its screenwriter was Christopher Columbus, who wrote and/or directed a string of hits, including Home Alone 1 & 2, Harry Potter 1 & 2, Only the Lonely, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Perhaps the problem had to do with the source material, since the story is based on the book Skipping Christmas, an uncharacteristic departure from the legal best-sellers by novelist John Grisham.

The story takes place in suburban Chicago, where Luther (Allen) and Nora (Curtis) Krank are facing the prospect of spending their first Christmas without their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), who is off in Peru, serving in the Peace Corps. Rather than get swept up in the rituals of the frenzied season, such as rushing around shopping malls, exchanging fruitcakes, and hosting their annual holiday party, the couple opts to treat themselves to a Caribbean cruise.

When word of their plan spreads around their cul-de-sac, their nosy neighbors, led by busybody Vic Frohmeyer (Aykroyd), decide to intervene. Unless the Kranks reconsider, their darkened house's exterior will ruin the block by being the only one on Hemlock street unadorned by festive lights and without a Frosty the Snowman on the roof.

So, for the balance of the movie, everybody in town takes turns trying to embarrass Luther and Nora into changing their minds. This includes not just friends, but local cops looking for a donation, and a parish priest offended by the idea of their patronizing a tanning salon. The picture's premise rests on the debatable notion that it is wrong to celebrate the season with anything other than the socially-sanctioned traditions.

For laughs, it resorts to slapstick and sight gags like Jamie Lee in an unflattering bikini and Tim trying to talk after Botox injections. The movie might have been more interesting if it had been presented as a social satire, questioning society's capitulation to consumption.

However, some predictable plot twists and sentimentality lead the Kranks back to their senses.

Poor (0 stars). Rated PG for language and suggestive material). Running time: 100 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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