I feel more like the Grinch with each passing holiday film. Surviving Christmas earned a hum-bug from me. The Polar Express, while a touching story filled with luscious colors and dynamic backgrounds, provided scarier moments than Saw or The Grudge with its wax figure-ish humanoid kids and creepy elves. And finally, after enduring a year of lackluster big-budget epics and disappointing heavily-hyped films, we open the latest Christmas-themed cinema treat to discover all we get is a lousy lump of coal. What on Earth did we do to deserve this treatment?
The premise is kind of cute, but as the film deteriorates into more and more unlikely setups, the movie becomes less about skipping Christmas and more about skipping out on any semblance of reality. When their daughter joins the Peace Corps. and announces she wont be home Christmas, Mr. (Tim Allen) and Mrs. Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis) decide to just skip the whole thing. Theyll not engage in the exchange of Christmas presents around the office. There will be no decorating of the house or trimming of the tree. Because the Kranks live in one of those neighborhoods where everyone is expected to get into Christmas, their decision to pass on all things Christmas doesnt sit well with their friends and neighbors. And because this is a predictable holiday flick, their daughter decides to return home with a boyfriend in tow to show off her familys annual festivities. Hijinks ensue and hilarity is supposed to follow as the Kranks rush around trying to recreate the spirit of Christmas with just a few hours notice.
A half-hour sitcom could have handled the premise better, and with many more laughs, than does this uncomfortably stupid film. The dialogue is a disaster, the jokes have less fizz than a month-old opened can of soda, and theres no continuity to the story whatsoever. Tim Allens character undergoes a Botox treatment with effects that mysteriously vanish a scene later. The same holds true for the results of a session in a tanning bed. Hes got a dark, Hawaiian tan one moment and poof, its all gone in the very next scene. And thats just the tip of the iceberg.
Im actually sorry I gave Surviving Christmas the grade I did (a D+). Had I known just how far the holiday films of 2004 had sunk for material, I may have viewed Surviving Christmas in a kinder, gentler light. Not that Im making an apology to Ben Affleck for dissing his film. Surviving Christmas is still not the kind of movie Id feel good about recommending purchasing a ticket to see. But once its on video, Id definitely recommend it over Christmas with the Kranks. Then again, Id recommend a DVD on learning to like being stung by bees over the absolutely abysmal, Christmas with the Kranks.
"Christmas with the Kranks" is directed by Joe Roth and is rated PG for brief language and suggestive content.