Christmas with the Kranks is a family comedy based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas. The movie is about as funny as it is serious, which isn't saying much. The cast headlines Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey, and M. Emmet Walsh. Between animated actors like Allen and Aykroyd, you'd expect that someone would be able to produce some hilarious and fun material. Well, they do, but the laughs are few and far between. Overall this movie has its moments, but not nearly enough. It is a cute family movie with a happy feel good ending and not much else.
In the opening sequence of the movie Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) say goodbye to their twenty-three year old daughter Blair at the airport. Blair, a recent college graduate, has joined the Peace Corp and this scene represents the parents realizing their baby girl won't always be home for Christmas. After leaving the airport the Kranks start to go into their normal routine for the holidays, but not for long. Luther gets an idea. With Blair gone, why should they go through all the hoops to create the perfect Christmas? Instead why not spend the holiday in the Cayman Islands? When he first brings the idea to Nora, she looks at him like he's crazy. It takes some convincing, but he manages to convince her it is the right option.
The Kranks wanting to save money forgo all Christmas related business--that means no annual Christmas Eve block party, no decorations, no presents, no Christmas spirit! Luther calculated that last year they spent over six grand on Christmas alone. The problem is that the neighborhood is intent on having the holiday tradition upheld. The first half of the film focuses on the Kranks and the neighbors led by Vic (Dan Aykroyd) going face to face. No matter what they want, the Kranks won't participate. Whether it is putting up the Christmas tree or listening to carolers, the Kranks want nothing to do with it. This incurs some unhappy faces from characters played by Aykroyd, Marin, Busey, and the many other supporting roles.
In the second half of the movie, Luther and Nora find out at the last minute that Blair is coming home for Christmas. She also has a surprise for them. She's bringing her fiance, a Peruvian doctor she went to college with. He has never experienced Christmas in the United States and she really wants him to see what it is like to celebrate the holidays with the Kranks. That means all the traditional things that come with Christmas, such as the lights, the tree, the decorations, the presents, the food, friends, family, and the annual Christmas Eve party with the neighbors. With only hours to go, the Kranks go into overdrive to pull together the perfect Christmas without Blair finding out the cruise.
There isn't much that works for this movie. Allen and Aykroyd both get in a few good jibes, but I loosely use the word few. Typically the characters they play fail to take advantage of the comic nature either individual has to offer. Their roles are very limited. Curtis, on the other hand, pushes her character too hard and she really doesn't give much to her character. She's not funny. Marin, who we best know for his role in the stoner duo Cheech and Chong, doesn't have a big role in the movie. Busey, well, this guy isn't funny. The characters just aren't that remarkable and they also had very limited content to work with.
Overall this movie offers a wholesome tone that is perfect for those looking for a feel good family flick. While it isn't an amazing movie or something I could imagine wanting to watch over and over again, it makes a nice holiday rental.
This DVD release does not have extras of any kind included. Instead there are two video transfers included. You will be able to see the movie in its theatrical presentation of 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen color or 1.33:1 full frame color. The transfers offer a relatively clean picture with traces of edge enhancement and a minor grain. In general color tones look correct.
The audio tracks come in two formats: English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound and French 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The 5.1 track is slightly overkill. There is very little use of the surround sound capability, as the dialogue primarily comes from the forward channels. Some of the sound effects and music utilize the rear channels, but nothing extreme. The DVD also comes with subtitles in English, French, Chinese, and Thai.
There are no extras included with this DVD release, but it does offer both a widescreen and full screen transfer.
The story behind Christmas with the Kranks is nothing inventive and at times it is a bit ridiculous. Unfortunately the ridiculous nature does not equate to comedy. The two funniest actors this movie has to offer, Tim Allen and Dan Aykroyd, are great comedians and in the right setting with the proper supporting cast they can be a riot. In this movie neither is particularly strong and they tend to be more lackluster than funny. The same goes for the others performers on cast. There are some funny situations they get into, but not enough to push this movie into greatness. Overall this movie is fun as a feel good family film and is worth a renting.