Christmas With the Kranks Review

WARNING: This review contains plot spoilers. However, 'Christmas With the Kranks' is so crushingly predictable, that they shouldn't spoil any potential "enjoyment".

Christmas With the Kranks is clearly trying to capitalise on a number of previous successes. It’s based on a novel by John Grisham, always a Hollywood hot property. Doing the adaptation is Chris Columbus, the man responsible for such holiday hits as the Home Alone and Harry Potter franchises. And in the lead role is Tim Allen whose best known live action movies remain his pair of Santa Clause efforts. The only major player not to be addressing previous hits is director Joe Roth, but then having helmed such proficient feelgood fare as Coupe de Ville and America’s Sweethearts, he’s hardly likely to spoil the recipe.

Yet for such a cynical concoction, Christmas With the Kranks is a remarkably sentimental affair. Its setup sees couple Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis deciding to ditch festivities in order to go on a Caribbean cruise. This means no cards, no gifts, no parties – office or otherwise – and none of the usual trappings. The perfect opportunity to get in a few digs at consumerism and the commercialisation of Christmas, or at least you would imagine. Yet Christmas With the Kranks is nothing of the sort; it’s too suburban, too middle class, too American to see things in such a way. The no social commentary here, just wall-to-wall Christmas songs (‘Frosty the Snowman’, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’… the usual suspects) and the inevitable point at which Allen and Curtis see the error of their ways and join in the festive cheer.

As such it’s an incredibly difficult film to engage with. It’s so stuck in its own little world of social stigma and middle class guilt that most audiences will fail to recognise anything of themselves in it, whilst the plot trajectory is so thuddingly predictable that we’ve little to cling onto in narrative terms. Indeed, there’s nothing but easy pot shots (at Botox and tanning salons amongst others) and easy family friendly laughs to take us through the repetitious episodes. First Allen refuses to buy a tree, then a calendar, then put up the decorations, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Had the film been played straight it may have been able to achieve a certain sinister edge through its neighbourly pressures and societal brainwashing, yet the only things that gets treated in this manner is the sentimentality – when Christmas With the Kranks proclaims its love for whatever it’s proclaiming its love for, you can guarantee that it means every last word.

In this respect the second half of the film is by far the harder to take. Allen and Curtis change their minds because of their daughter (yet another opportunity for the sentimentalists) and so the whole neighbourhood chips in to save to day. In fact, Santa Claus himself even makes an appearance just to add one final sickening dose of syrup before the end credits begin to roll. It’s all crushingly inevitable and remarkably easy to hate. Moreover, the title of the original novel - Skipping Christmas - has been altered in a manner which would suggest that the filmmakers are hoping to create a franchise out of the Kranks. If so, it won’t take much to improve on this effort.

The Disc

What does it say about a studio picture of a reasonable budget when it comes to DVD is less than great condition? Here we get Christmas With the Kranks accompanied by a single extra and a comparatively poor presentation. Of course, the film is given an anamorphic transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, yet the print appears unnecessarily inky. The blacks lack definition and everyone’s skin tones appear overly blotchy. Moreover, the clarity isn’t always there especially during the long shots. Admittedly, it can look absolutely perfect at times, but this inconsistency is not what you’d expect from a company such as Sony when dealing with one of their recent successes. Faring better is the soundtrack, here in DD5.1 form and demonstrating no discernible problems. Of course, the film is mostly dialogue heavy, but it copes just as well with the chit-chat as it does the various Christmas tunes. And that single extra? Oddly enough it has only the most tenuous connection with Christmas With the Kranks itself. Rather this is a 15-minute Changing Rooms-style featurette in which various LA-based experts tell us how to decorate the fronts of our houses in time for December.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:04:15

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