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Joe Roth
Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmet Walsh, Elizabeth Franz, Erik Per Sullivan, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey
Writing Credits:
John Grisham (novel), Chris Columbus

No! Ho! Ho!

In Revolution Studios' comedy, based on John Grisham's bestselling novel Skipping Christmas, Tim Allen plays Luther Krank, a man who decides to skip Christmas and all the surrounding trappings and go on vacation with his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) instead. But when his daughter decides, at the last minute, to come home for the holidays, he is forced to put Christmas back together.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$21.570 million on 3393 screens.
Domestic Gross
$73.701 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 11/8/2005

• Trailer
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Christmas With The Kranks (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 2, 2005)

Why does a turkey like Surviving Christmas tank at the box office but a similar – and similarly bad – clunker like Christmas with the Kranks turns into a moderate hit. That’s the $62 million question – the difference between the $73 million gross for Kranks and the $11 million take for Surviving.

Perhaps it’s a matter of timing. Kranks hit screens right around Thanksgiving 2004, which meant minds were firmly looking toward Christmas. Bizarrely, Surviving came out more than a week before Halloween, which seems like a really inappropriate time for this sort of flick.

Perhaps it’s a matter of cast. Kranks stars Tim Allen, the lead in the very successful Santa Clause flicks. Surviving features Ben Affleck, an actor rapidly becoming more famous for being famous – and his choice of hot Jennifers to date – than for his work.

I suppose those factors add up to an extra $62 million. That’s all I can figure, because Kranks certainly can’t have become a hit due to the quality of the movie itself.

At the start of the film, Luther (Allen) and Nora Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis) send their only daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) to Peru for an extended stint with the Peace Corps. This will be the Kranks’ first Christmas sans child in 23 years, and Luther offers a radical proposal: that he and Nora should skip Christmas and take a cruise instead.

She resists this notion but assents when she learns they’ll save $3000 in the process. (Apparently the Kranks get pretty extravagant with their holiday soirees and knick-knacks.) In the process, however, Luther decides that he and the missus shouldn’t just go out of town for the holiday. Instead, he decrees a total boycott of Christmas, a choice that inspires the wrath of neighbors and co-workers.

After many minutes of antagonism, a complication ensues. On Christmas Eve, Blair phones and states that she’s coming home for the holiday along with her new fiancé Enrique (René Lavan). This sets Luther and Nora into a tizzy as they decide to ditch the cruise and give Blair the lavish Christmas she expects. The rest of the movie follows those shenanigans.

I knew I was in trouble when I took an instant dislike to Nora. Going Halloween, I’ve found her to be a charming and enjoyable actor, but none of those qualities come through as Nora. In her first five minutes, the character seems demanding, irrational and annoying. Those characteristics continue through the movie, and Nora actually seems schizophrenic at times. She changes so much from minute to minute that she became a bit scary.

Luther offers a much more consistent character, though not necessarily a more logical one. I totally understand his desire to back down from the usual Christmas hysterics, but the movie makes his cause difficult to understand for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t get a great sense for how heavily involved the Kranks were with prior festivities. Sure, the movie hints at some of those elements, but it doesn’t deliver a clear feeling that this was a taxing, enormous effort. Why is Luther so fed up with it? We don’t know. This means he simply seems capricious and sour.

In addition, his obsession with a Christmas boycott never makes sense. Again, I can accept his choice to skip the decorations, parties and other nonsense, but his obsession with all of this seems totally illogical. It’s clearly not the money; it becomes some ludicrous principle for him. Why? I still can’t figure out that one.

Then we find the total 180 that occurs when precious Blair comes home. Granted, Luther sort of sticks to his guns; he still tries to convince Nora to take the cruise even after Blair and Enrique arrive at their house. However, the manic, obsessive way in which Nora decides she must provide the perfect holiday for Blair makes little sense. The fact the whole community joins in also stretches believability to an extreme. Yeah, the film tries to explain how much everyone loves her, but I still don’t get why the world will come to an end if Blair doesn’t eat her favorite ham or a plastic Frosty isn’t on the roof.

Perhaps all of this is intended as a satire on the radical consumerism of the holidays. Something like Jingle All the Way makes a more concerted effort to do so, as Kranks fails to explore that issue in anything that approaches a satisfying manner. If this is a goal, it definitely falters in the second half when Making Blair Happy is the only aim. This occurs with the requisite wackiness but not with any sense of irony or satire.

If it’s gone that darker route, Kranks might’ve been interesting and entertaining. Instead, it chooses to take on its subject with a chainsaw rather than a scalpel. It melds crude, ineffective physical comedy with maudlin sentiment to turn into a real stinker.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

Christmas with the Kranks appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. While the film evidenced a mix of flaws, all remained quite minor.

For the most part, sharpness seemed excellent. A few of the wider shots looked a little tentative, but not to a substantial degree. The vast majority of the flick appeared crisp and well-defined. Some slight signs of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I noticed mild edge enhancement on a few occasions. Print flaws appeared absent, as I never detected any source concerns.

Kranks went with a bright holiday palette that usually looked rich and bold. Some shots were slightly pale, largely because the movie occasionally took on a sense of excessive brightness. As with all my other complaints, this was barely an issue, though, as the hues were mostly quite true. Blacks were deep and firm, and shadows looked clear and visible. Though the transfer was just a little too “off” to be great, it still merited a positive “B+”.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Christmas with the Kranks, it offered a surprisingly involving affair. I can’t say I expected much from the soundfield, but I found a pretty lively setting. Most of the film stuck with ambience, which opened up the spectrum well. We got a good sense of the holiday activities, and a few louder sequences impressed. Those included thunder as well as slapstick wackiness. The surrounds also featured score in a compelling manner, and the back speakers acted as active partners – at least for this kind of comedy. This immersed us in the action much more than I anticipated.

Audio quality was excellent. Bass response lit things up well and offered a deep layer of low-end. The thunder really roared, as did elements like ominous music and effects. These also were crisp and detailed, with clean, tight highs. Speech sounded natural and distinctive, and no signs of edginess marred the track. Kranks wasn’t ambitious enough to enter “A” territory, but I thought it merited a well-deserved “B+”, which was much higher than I thought it’d deserve.

Although Kranks made a decent $73 million at the box office, apparently the folks at Columbia didn’t think the DVD deserved any extras. Or maybe director Joe Roth is of the Woody Allen/Luc Besson school of thought and just doesn’t dig them. His last directorial effort – 2001’s America’s Sweethearts - came with very few supplements.

In any case, this set includes only the trailer for Kranks and some Previews. Columbia originally planned to release this DVD in the spring of 2005 and then somebody realized that no one wants to buy a Christmas movie at Easter so the release date got moved to the more logical November. Sign that these discs were set to go for the spring: all of the previews advertise spring/summer movie and DVD releases.

That means we get a roster that looks stale in the fall of 2005. Kranks provides ads for Bewitched, Are We There Yet?, Hitch and Guess Who at its start. It also features those in the “Previews” area along with clips for Matilda, Daddy Day Care, and Master of Disguise.

If Santa offered me a choice between Christmas with the Kranks or a lump of coal, I’ll take the latter. Kranks completely wastes any potential it possessed and becomes nothing more than an awkward mix of slapstick and schmaltz. The DVD provides very good picture and sound but includes no substantial extras. Leave this unpleasant affair on the shelf.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.32 Stars Number of Votes: 25
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