Netflix UK film review: Christmas with the Kranks
Ivan Radford | On 23, Dec 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Joe Roth
Cast: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd
Watch Christmas with the Kranks online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“You’re skipping Christmas. Isn’t that against the law?” asks Spike (Malcolm with the Middle’s Erik Per Sullivan) in Christmas with the Kranks. A young child, he believes in the importance of Christmas above pretty much anything else. So when Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank decide to give the holly, jolly season a miss for one year, Spike is pretty appalled – and so, too, is the rest of the neighbourhood.
It’s a childish reaction, and the supporting cast do a good job of emphasising that, harassing the couple over the phone to put up their usual Frosty the Snowman decoration, ostracising them in public, and singing carols non-stop on a cold winter’s eve. All this over festive traditions and rituals, so that Hemlock Street retains its prize for the best decorated street? There’s a scathing satire in here, about consumerism and the commercialisation of Christmas. The problem is that Christmas with the Kranks isn’t all that interested in exploring it.
The reason for Luther and Nora to ditch their seasonal routine stems from the fact that their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), has gone to Perus for a year, leaving them feeling blue with nothing much to do. And so Luther hatches a scheme to raise some money to pay for them to go on a cruise instead. What might be a sweet story of two parents rediscovering the meaning of Christmas, though, is eventually shunted into less rewarding territory.
Sure enough, just as the Kranks find themselves established as local pariahs, Blair surprises them with the announcement that she’s coming home, prompting Luther and Nora to race about and find a way to un-cancel their Christmas. Can they put on their usual Christmas Eve do? Cook their traditional hickory ham? Decorate a tree in their living room? Put Frosty the Snowman on the roof?
All of these questions – rather than questions about priorities in life – become the focus of the film’s second half, and we watch as the duo attempt to course-correct everything at the last-minute. It’s a misjudged idea, one that takes us away from two well-off white folk examining their life choices, a la Scrooge, and instead puts them into a weirdly pro-consumerist fable: Christmas, the film seems to say, is all about the trimmings. Aren’t the presents, the money and the parties all great?
Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis do their best to make their selfish spouses entertaining, but it’s difficult to root for two characters who are pretty unlikeable. The presence of Dan Aykroyd in the cast doesn’t bring as many laughs as you’d expect either, with the bullying of them by their neighbours only adding to the lack of charm on display, as we’re asked to watch 90-odd minutes of people behaving in a decidedly un-Christmassy manner.
Based on Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (yes, really), the script by Chris Columbus (yes, really) starts promisingly but winds up a bit of a dud. The odd bit of deadpan from Allen and over-reactions from Curtis prompt wry smiles, but all you end up wanting for Christmas is a better vehicle for their talents. Skipping this one certainly isn’t against the law.
Christmas with the Kranks is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.