In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_nnkx3ahyot7p3au92dnglf4pkwa

The Congress

"The Congress" is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when…

Thumb_as_above_so_below_xlg

As Above, So Below

It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Christmas with the Kranks

Christmas with the Kranks Movie Review
  |  

'Christmas With the Kranks" doesn't have anything wrong with it that couldn't be fixed by adding Ebenezer Scrooge and Bad Santa to the cast. It's a holiday movie of stunning awfulness that gets even worse when it turns gooey at the end. And what is it finally so happy about? Why, that the Kranks' neighbors succeed in enforcing their lockstep conformity upon them. They form a herd mentality, without the mentality.

The movie is not funny, ever, in any way, beginning to end. It's a colossal miscalculation. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star as Luther and Nora Krank, who live in a Chicago suburb with their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo). Julie is going to Peru in the Peace Corps, so this will be their first Christmas without her, and Luther suggests that instead of spending $6,000 on Christmas, he and Nora spend $3,000 on a Caribbean cruise.

Sounds reasonable to me. But perhaps you're wondering how a couple with one child and no other apparent relatives on either side of the family spends $6,000 on Christmas. The answer is, they decorate. Their street coordinates a Christmas display every year in which neighbors compete to hang the most lights from their eaves and clutter the lawn with secular symbolism. Everyone has Frosty on the rooftop.

When the word gets around that the Kranks are taking a year off, the neighborhood posse gets alarmed. Their leader is Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), who leads a delegation to berate them. Before long, pickets are on the front lawn, chanting "Free Frosty!" and the local paper writes a story about "The only house on the block that's keeping Frosty in the basement."

As a satire against neighborhood conformity, "Christmas With the Kranks" might have found a way to be entertaining. But no. The reasonable Kranks are pounded down by the neighbors, and then their daughter decides, after having been away only about two weeks, to fly home for Christmas with her new Peruvian fiance. So the Kranks of course must have their traditional Christmas Eve party after all, and the third act consists of all the neighbors pitching in to decorate the house, prepare the food and decorations, etc., in a display of self-righteous cooperation that is supposed to be merry but frankly is a little scary. Here's an idea: Why don't the Kranks meet Blair and her fiance in Miami and go on the cruise together?

The movie's complete lack of a sense of humor is proven by its inability to see that the Kranks are reasonable people and their neighbors are monstrous. What it affirms is not the Christmas spirit but the Kranks caving in. What is the movie really about? I think it may play as a veiled threat against nonconformists who don't want to go along with the majority opinion in their community. What used to be known as American individualism is now interpreted as ominous. We're supposed to think there's something wrong with the Kranks. The buried message is: Go along, and follow the lead of the most obnoxious loudmouth on the block.

Christmas, some of my older readers may recall, was once a religious holiday. Not in this movie. Not a single crucifix, not a single creche, not a single mention of the J-name. It's not that I want "Christmas With the Kranks" to get all religious, but that I think it's secular as a copout, to avoid any implication of religious intolerance. No matter what your beliefs or lack of them, you can celebrate Christmas in this neighborhood, because it's not about beliefs, it's about a shopping season.

So distant are the spiritual origins of the holiday, indeed, that on Christmas Eve one of the guests at the Kranks' big party is the local priest (Tom Poston), who hangs around gratefully with a benevolent smile. You don't have to be raised Catholic to know that priests do not have time off on Christmas Eve. Why isn't he preparing for midnight mass? Apparently because no one in the Kranks' neighborhood is going to attend -- they're too busy falling off ladders while stringing decorations on rooftops.

There is, however, one supernatural creature in the movie, and I hope I'm not giving away any secrets by revealing that it is Santa Claus. The beauty of this approach is that Santa is a non-sectarian saint, a supernatural being who exists free of theology. Frosty, on the other hand, is apparently only a snowman.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Ferguson, Missouri: Third World America vs. Atlas Shrugged

An FFC looks at the horrible situation in Ferguson, MO and what it says about where we are and where we're going.

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus