This meretricious claptrap is exactly the kind of baloney it purports to be saving us from.
There’s a reliable genre of family holiday movie that is made up of three-fourths slapstick followed by 15 minutes of sentiment. In this case, however, the characters are so unpleasant, the jokes so un-funny, the sentiment so blatantly hypocritical that the result is as heavy and unappetizing as last year’s figgy pudding.
The Kranks always do Christmas in a big way. But with their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) departing for Peru, the prospect of a Christmas at home doesn’t seem too appealing. Luther (Tim Allen) proposes to Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) that they skip Christmas. For half of the $6100 they spent on Christmas the previous year, they can take a luxury cruise. After Nora persuades Luther that they must still make their annual $600 charitable contributions, she agrees.
At first, they feel liberated from the pressure and hassles of Christmas. But when their friends and neighbors start to put pressure on them to conform. Luther is defiant, but Nora is uncertain. The neighbors are furious.
Instead of getting ready for Christmas, Luther and Nora get ready for their cruise. Just as they are ready to leave, their daughter calls. She will be home for Christmas after all, with her new boyfriend, Enrique, and she wants everything to be just the way it always has been. And she’ll be home in just a few hours.
This means that we are subjected to excruciating set-ups about the outrage of the community when the Kranks refuse to put their enormous Frosty up on the roof (“Free Frosty! Free Frosty!” they chant), turn down the Boy Scouts who come by to sell them a tree, and ice the walk to keep away the carolers. Then there are further sit-not-coms as they go to a tanning parlor (Curtis lets it all hang out in a tiny bikini) and Luther gets Botox in his face and can’t close his mouth to chew his lunch. There are equally un-funny escapades as everyone slips on the icy walk and as everyone scrambles to get everything ready for Blair. There are useless digressions about a robber and about a mystery man who seems to know everyone. The fact that Blair has a boyfriend who is a FOREIGNER is supposed to be funny. A cop spells his name wrong. Hahahaha!
One of the Kranks’ neighbors develop a very serious health problem, a particularly manipulative and awkward plot development that is too-obviously inserted to get our sympathy and give Luther a growth experience.
But what takes this movie from the harmless trifle category into the genuinely toxic is its attempt to leverage all of its audiences’ feelings about the best of Christmas while having no sense at all of what makes those feelings matter. Nora’s only contact with her clergyman is contrived so that he sees her in her skimpy bathing suit. The film’s phony attempt to make fun of the craziness, commercialism, and conformity of the holiday season is in fact just one more example, so fundamentally fake and superficial it makes tinsel look like sterling.
Parents should know that the movie has some mild sexual references (Nora thinks Luther wants to have sex and starts taking off her sweater and gulps down some wine, saying, “But it isn’t Saturday!”). Characters drink wine and beer on social occasions and some reach for alcohol to deal with stress. There is a lot of comic violence and mayhem, with many falls, bashes on the head, and electrocutions that are intended to be funny. A character receives bad news about the recurrance of cancer, which may be disturbing to some audience members.
Families who see this movie should talk about what is important about Christmas or other holidays and which traditions have the most meaning to them. They should also talk about peer pressure and how to know when to listen to the community and when to stick with your own judgment about what is right.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing The Santa Clause (also starring Allen) and Home Alone.