10 Years: “Christmas with the Kranks”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/9c1/68294143/files/2014/12/img_4954.jpgThe holiday themed comedy… it’s usually a ridiculous experience, never doing more than imitating that of the previous year’s holiday movies. Yet, for some reason, we, as filmgoers, still flock to the theaters or Blockbuster (way back when) or Redbox (pick your own), to watch the newest one, or finally see, as it somehow always makes the season all the more festive, fun, and happy!

The Columbia Pictures film “Christmas with the Kranks”, comes off just like all the other’s you’ve wanted to see, or unfortunately wound up seeing, regretting it instantly, but somehow still enjoyed and made your holiday all the more fun.

This holiday comedy stars Tim Allen (“Last Man Standing”, “Toy Story That Time Forgot”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“Veronica Mars”, “New Girl”), Dan Aykrod (“Get on Up”, “Tammy”), Julie Gonzalo (“Dallas (2012 TV series”, “Mobsters”), Erik Per Sullivan (“Twelve”, “Mo”), Cheech Marin (“The Book of Life”, “Anger Management”), Jake Busey (“From Dusk Till Dawn (2014 TV series)”, “Perception”), and M. Emmett Walsh (“Calvary”, “Adventure Time”).

The film was directed by Joe Roth (“Freedomland”, “America’s Sweethearts”) and written by Chris Columbus (“Nine Months”, “Only the Lonely”). It is based on the novel “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham.

The film originally opened on Nov. 24, 2004.

I’d seen this film once before and vaguely remembered that I might have liked it. Then, as is what TV does best, there was a constant showing of it on several networks. So I did the logical thing. I went and pulled the family copy of this movie off the shelf, and went to work on watching what turned out to be a highly enjoyable film.

The best part of this is the fact, surprisingly, that this is based on a book! Wait, what? Did I just say that? Yes I did. First off, I haven’t read the book, more out of timing than anything. This means I have nothing to compare it to and nitpick and complain about. The creative idea has already been established and I don’t need to think on how irrational the premise of the film is. It is a bit silly, but I’m sure people actually think this way.

While Curtis may look weird with medium length brown hair, it definitely suits her character. Sure the voice sounds just like her, but I don’t find myself thinking that it is her. She’s Nora Krank, and for better or for worse, her husband is played by Allen. Sure many people think he’s funny, but I’m not really one of them. It’s more got to do with the fact that I haven’t seen much of what he’s done and with good reason. However, that seems to be okay as they both do quite well playing these particular people. There’s a sense of understanding and sympathy for them, which also lends to the likability, which only gets easier when you discover what assholes their neighbors are.

So, these two people don’t wish to celebrate Christmas with you, get over it. It’s not the end of the world, although the way these people react you’d think it is. They go so far as to harass them many times over, from “Free Frosty”, chants (which were pretty hilarious) to obnoxious Christmas carolers, all of whom I’d be willing to throw things at. While this was really annoying, as apparently it’s not okay to want to not celebrate for whatever reason, and shows you must conform and become some sort of Pod Person, it did provide for a few amusing bits. The antics that Curtis and Allen engaged in with the neighbors did just the trick for a film that deliberately started off seemingly lacking anything that would make this a comedy. Come on, how could you not find the gag with the frozen walk way fun? That cat being frozen definitely had me laughing out loud! That, however, is where the fun, and a bit of genius, comes into play.

The majority of the big comic and typical stunts occurs after they receive a call from their kid saying she’s actually coming home. Why she waited so long is beyond me, but apparently isn’t important to know or understand. It’s just one of those things that occur and you go with it, as do Curtis and Allen. They then discover, that after days of not decorating and resisting the calls from the neighbors, that they must now go back and get things ready, in what, 12 hours? So, thus begins the last half of the film. They run around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s a marvelous site to see.

Curtis is trying to get a specific ham, and in doing so, gets into a pretty hilarious race with an older woman pushing a shopping cart. She eventually runs into and flips onto another person’s cart, and rolls straight into some display of food. While this was quite hilarious, it’s sad, as I’m sure she could’ve beaten the older woman. Was that too mean? What? It was the last ham. Anything goes. Later, after finally getting her hands on one, it ends up rolling into the middle of the street, where she tries to catch it to no avail. It gets squished. Her fit is just as funny.

Allen is busy trying to get a tree. The only one at the lot, where they usually get one, is some ridiculously puny one that wouldn’t do well to start a fire, and he’s forced to take it. He’s not satisfied and convinces a neighbor, who also happens to be going out of town or something, to let him borrow it. The only condition, that it stays the way it looks. Amusingly it does not. In a bout of confusion from an annoying nosy neighbor (I don’t think the people in Stars Hollow were that annoying and nosy), the neighbor, who just happen to be looking outside his window with deliberately worn binoculars, calls the cops. Allen’s arrested because the cops think he’s trying to steal the tree, like he’s the Grinch or something. After it’s sorted out, the tree ends up in his house, looking awful. What are these people to do?

As is fitting, and this is really where the formula comes into play, the neighbors learn the truth. They, LUCKILY, decide to also become headless chickens, and set up a great party all for Curtis and Allen’s movie daughter to love and think that they stuck with tradition. It’s all so perfect!

Normally I’d say it’s utterly annoying, as the gags are a bit childish and unoriginal, but I feel that somehow, Columbus managed to craft something that didn’t seem that way at all. He certainly steered clear of any of the usual gross out and sexual humor that anyone else may have tried to include, but would’ve made it non-family friendly. It’s certainly what sets this film apart, and really, truly, makes this film stand out so much more as family film. I’d definitely have no qualms about showing it to my nephews!

While I would typically bemoan the fact that there’s no character development, or many characters to like, I’m aware that there isn’t really meant to be any. Firstly, these are two parents that haven’t been apart form the daughter for Christmas before, and it’s hard. I can imagine, can’t I? If they had two other kids, it may still have been hard, but bearable. They don’t. So everything that Curtis and Allen go through seems relatively normal. Sure most of the reactions from them and the other characters seem like exaggerated responses to what could be a real life scenario for anyones, but they’d have to be. You can’t get get fun and exciting family comedy from the dramatic and mundane. Which is why, secondly, the annoying effort to force people to do as you wish, is what makes for a lot of humor too. Instead of just telling someone to respect your wishes, you’re going to suffer through all their attempts at trying to get you to change your mind on Christmas related activities.

I may dislike most comedies, but here I just got wrapped up in it! From the moment it began I was loving it. It’s been awhile since I last saw it, so that could have something to do with it. It’s probably the first time I’ve allowed myself to absolutely be a childish person! Or, simpler yet, I’m just so excited and happy for this particular time of the year, that no matter what I’m watching, as long as it’s Christmas themed, I can roll with it. It also shows, that for once, that this type of humor and set up actually works for me. That I don’t have to pretend to like the jokes that are being made. It does happen from time to time. Also, FREE FROSTY!!!


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