Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Christmas with the Kranks

MPAA Rating: PG for brief language and suggestive content

Reviewed by: Ed Cox
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Gonzalo, Dan Aykroyd, Jake Busey
Director: Joe Roth
Producer: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe
Distributor: Revolution Studios
Copyright, Revolution Studios
Copyright, Revolution Studios
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Revolution Studios
What is the true meaning of CHRISTMAS?
What is the TRUE meaning of Christmas? Answers for skeptics. Plus, carols, games, coloring pages, reviews of Christmas movies, and more.

REVIEWS of other Christmas movies

“No! Ho! Ho!”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther (Allen) and Nora Krank (Curtis) have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether, despite the fact that they’re usually the most fanatical about it. They might as well, since it won’t be the same without their daughter, who’s away in the tropics. They get the idea to JOIN their daughter in sunny paradise as a surprise, and thus, theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. But when their daughter surprises THEM by cutting her trip short and returning home for Christmas, there’s a mad scramble to prepare themselves to have the traditional Christmas fanfare on extremely short notice.”

Review

When the producer’s of the movie can’t get the description of the plot exactly right, it gives you an idea the movie is going to have its fits and starts and perhaps never confidently reach the finish line. The daughter is with the Peace Corps in Peru, which may be a tropical climate, but not exactly an island paradise.

Before anyone reads too far and misses this point—here is the main one to offer in the review. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S MOVIE. It is an adult-themed movie that does not cross the PG line, but does use humor in a way that goes way over the head of the children in attendance. If you are expecting to see another in the “Santa Clause” franchise you are going to be disappointed.

Things to watch out for—1 D, 1 H, a few Lord’s name in vain. There are a several jokes regarding “but it’s not even Saturday night” that made me feel uncomfortable sitting with my 12-year-old daughters. Yes, the two main characters are married, but the “will the table hold” was over the top. Add in a yard of cleavage from both a bit-character as well as Ms. Curtis at a tanning booth (as well as Tim Allen in a Speedo), and the visuals in this movie are a little much.

Anytime Hollywood makes a “Christmas” movie, you have a conflict of interest between the world view and a Christ-centered view. Your eschatology will not be challenged with this movie as all references to Christmas are white icing feel good with no messy references to Christ that make Hollywood want to wear oven mitts.

See our special section on the true meaning of Christmas

The standard fare is man thinks of self, world reacts in horror, man reflects, man changes self. As we know from Scripture, none are worthy, no not one. We do not have the ability to change except that which is granted by God through the Holy Spirit to change the heart and therefore the life.

The only two references to “church” in the film is an argument between husband and wife about whether they will make a donation to the church as they always do. The argument was not about whether they are honoring the teachings of scripture about money management and tithing (the most talked about subject in the Bible), but rather treat this issue in the same breath as buying the annual Police calendar. The second is a mall scene with Jamie Lee Curtis in a bikini designed for a younger woman, only to be discovered by her priest.

I wanted so desperately for this movie to work. The joy of having Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis in a movie together under a family theme seemed to hold such promise. But I’m afraid I must report that the movie just does not work. It comes across as white cake that is sprinkled with a few funny gags that could easily be placed anywhere on the cake for effect. It is indeed as if the left hand of the movie didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

Our audience at the 11:10AM showing had a number of young children in attendance, so my comments about this being adult humor is field tested—they just sat there and ate their popcorn. I do need to clarify that this is not adult in the common use of four letter words as supposedly “adult” language. Rather, the humor is steeped in situations that only adults will appreciate (the husband trying desperately to please his wife in the placement of outdoor lights to no avail, only to be electrically shocked and fall into the shrubs for his effort). You have to have lived that type of moment to really appreciate it. Having an adult child bring home a boyfriend who has asked for her hand in marriage is another example. An empty nester moment, one lost on tweeners and below.

The movie sits in at about 1 hour and 50 minutes and leaves a bland taste in the mouth. Leave the young kids at home, the money will only be wasted. Rent “Elf” for them which has more of a kid flavor. As for your teenagers and adults, this movie is not going to clear the fence; it will be on store shelves next Christmas in the $5.99 bargain bin.

 
See our personal interview with Tim Allen, Dan Aykroyd and one of the producers of “Christmas with the Kranks.”

Where does the impetus come from for people to make the kind of sacrifices that Tim Allen’s character makes in this movie? GO


If you do end up seeing the movie, here are some things to watch for and talk with your children about (for there are positives nestled in the branches of the script).

  • Tim Allen does make a magnanimous gesture in the film—talk about what would motivate someone to do that. This movie actually shows a normal, functional family—something unusual for Hollywood to be sure.
  • There are neighbors helping neighbors even within the comedic folds of the story—talk about our charge to help our neighbor.
  • Finally and most importantly, there is a character in the story (Marty) that no one knows. Ask your child (or yourself) how someone can walk through life, seeing everything and not be noticed.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Read our cast interview

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Although I too laughed at the “premise” that the producer left, I have to say I disagree with the reviewer. This movie was beautifully done, very poignant… my entire family loved it. The book is beautiful, wonderfully written, and this is one of the most intact and “by the book” screenplays I have seen. You go to this film expecting light hearted silliness and end up leaving feeling warm and moved. Written by a Christian (John Grisham), this movie hits all of the “marks” that are “allowed” in a secular Christmas movie. This film fits the role of a dozen (or more) metaphors for Christian characteristics, and it is one my family will own and watch for many Christmas’s to come!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
Misty Wagner, age 28
Positive—“Christmas with the Kranks” has its humorous moments. It is set in suburbia America and isn’t anything extraordinary, but does carry with it some Christmas heart, offering inspiration in regards to giving and sacrifice. It’s also uplifting to see people functioning as a community where they love their neighbor as themselves. Tim Allen is funny, but has to play more of the straight guy. Jamie Lee Curtis is sharp and brings a lot of fun and relatability to her role. Dan Aykroyd’s character is the most comic, but there are many other comedic moments, too. Overall, a very clean film.
My Ratings: [2]
—Chris Monroe, age 31
Positive—This movie was very funny and some parts hilarious. At first it appears that the true meaning of Christmas is somewhere lost; however, the story line portrays a loving family along with neighborly love. It also weaves in selflessness and a community that is bound together in spirit and love. Even though Luther (Tim Allen) becomes self endulged; his friends and neighbors show forgiveness. O.K. where does all the love and forgivness come from? You got it, Jesus Christ himself. Although this is unspoken, it is very apparent. Very entertaining and light hearted.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—A. Rogers, age 45
Positive—This was a movie I went to see with my in-laws, wife and her sister over the Thanksgiving Break. I enjoy and respect the actors and actresses in this movie quite a bit so it was a joy to see them working in this comedic film. It had a funny premise of them wanting to skip Christmas for the sake of going on a cruise that Tim Allen’s character had been planning for weeks as a surprise to his wife who is feeling depressed about her daughter moving away. They spar a bit with the neighborhood about not putting up decorations and the like but just before they get to go, their daughter calls home and says she is coming home early for the holidays. There are a lot of funny moments in this one as Allen and Curtis play very well off of one another. My only gripes about it were the suggestive scene at the tanning place and how it felt a little overdone at the end with all the little storylines being sewn up. It had some very warm moments in it and overall, it was an enjoyable film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Benjamin Webb, age 21
Positive—…My grandson and I really enjoyed the movie. We laughed, sighed, laughed and shed a few tears and ended up saying that was “good” ! At the beginning there is a brief (very brief) scene where the wife thinks the husband is going to be romantic and says “but it isn’t even Sat. night” and she turns and starts to unbutton her clothes (you see nothing but her fully clothed back and in a sec she turns back around fully clothed). NO one says “will the table hold us” or anything like it. Jamie Lee Curtis starts to move a few of the dishes aside is all. He had something else in mind—not at all sexual in nature. Later you see Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen in a bikini and speedo trunks when they are at a tanning salon. Again it is a short scene and actually pretty funny, though the bikini is a bit revealing. I don’t remember any bad language or violence (a bit of pratfalls). And I think the story had a good moral lesson—in fact a couple of them.

My grandson (age 11) and I really wanted to see the movie because parts of it (the neighborhood where the Kranks live) were filmed here in Downey (on the old Rockwell property) and we saw some of the night time filming and confess we were really curious. It was well worth the time and money to see the movie—and I think everyone in the theatre seemed to enjoy it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Maggie Allen, age 60
Neutral—A harmless holiday film with many laughs. In the end, though, it’s more like a snack than a real meal of a movie.

We took our 12 and 10 year old kids, and left with zero family issues to discuss. For parents, there is one scene where the wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) thinks she and the husband (Tim Allen) are about to “fool around.” They don’t, of course, but it was well played for laughs. Hey, the characters are married, so it’s no big deal… when’s the last time a movie used sex WITHIN a marriage for a laugh?

There is zero discussion of the real meaning of Christmas. This is a totally secular film, but you could do worse.
My Ratings: [Good/3]
—GK, age 43
Positive—The film is overall is humorous and cute with slight abstract thoughts of Dicken’s Christmas Carol. For folks living in the suburbs with homeowner boards that often go over the edge, it reminds me of some of the more ridiculous antics that can take place. However, with Tim Allen and Jame Lee Curtis, their quick-witted statements and a lot more reality to planned events that can occur spontaneously for an almost empty-nester family.

There are moral references to church, tithing over worldly desires and a priest that sees the Kranks in an unlikely area of a tanning salon at a Mall. There is more emphasis on the worldly approach to Christmas than CHrist-like. But strong inferences to family and friends pulling together when tough times takes place.

There is even a bit of forgiveness to a mild “bah-humbug” attitude of Mr. Krank (Tim Allen). There are some curse words that could be left out and one has to wonder what value these expletive remarks provide in any theatrical event. My wife and I did get some chuckles over several events in the movie and felt that the moral overtone was much better than today’s average movie. I believe that he movie is more suited for adults and older children (teenage and up).
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Rob, age 44
Negative—Disclaimers: I would actually give the movie a ZERO, but that isn’t an option. As well, while there weren’t many offensive elements as far as cursing and the like, I was offended by one element of the movie. I think it was horribly wrong to include cancer in this movie. No one really discussed it or cared about that woman, except when the movie wanted us to get teary-eyed. I found it tasteless, as if that woman would be able to go on the cruise anyway.

“Christmas With the Kranks” is, in total honesty, just about the worst movie I have ever seen. It is not funny. It is not touching. It is not inspiring. It IS a waste of two hours of your life, though, and a misplacement of money. What if everyone who saw this piece of junk had seen “The Polar Express” instead? How much better the world would be! THAT is a funny and creative and warm and certainly family-friendly Holiday movie. Go see it!

A few things: Why was it impossible to tell the daughter their new Christmas plans? Is she 6 years old? Are her emotions so fragile that to tell her the truth would send her into fits of depression? Why couldn’t she and her boyfriend come home and all of them decorate together? Was anyone else unsettled by the Nazi-mentality of the neighborhood? And then, of course, the movie has us take their side at the end, because really, the Nazis were misunderstood. All of the “gags” in the movie are totally implausible. And yes, I know it’s a comedy, I’m fine with that. I’m not looking for REALITY, so much as some sense of logic.

For instance, why would the Jamie Lee Curtis character just stand there in the tanning salon, while her priest and everyone else stares? We know she’s self-conscious, se NEVER would have walked out there like that, and she never would have stayed out there to “chat” with the priest. This is but one example of how the comedy was forced, and therefor grew increasingly unfunny as the movie plodded along, toward a climax of total pointlessness. I don’t understand how anyone could actually LIKE this movie, I really don’t! I like Tim Allen! I like Jamie Lee Curtis! How is it that “Freaky Friday” seems more realistic than this movie?
My Ratings: [Good/1]
—Jason Eaken, age 21
Positive—Unfortunately, the movie was too true. The insane hustle and bustle of the season… the expectations and unspoken expectations… the breaking of tradition and the pressure to conform. We talked after the film about our own neighborhood boss—or bosses we have had in the various cities where we have lived. I didn’t tear up when Allen’s character gave his gift, but I loved the character development between the two. I have had neighbors like that. I did laugh out loud to the embarrassment of my wife, however I am a slapstick fan. The Mall and Botox scene did bring tears to my eyes. It is important to see the film for what it is—light entertainment for the holiday season. Oh, I did laugh at the thought that their annual Christmas offering to their church was $600. Most of us know an offering like that does not go very far in the life of the church—and if this was his yearly offering—this really would make our church treasurer laugh.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Joseph J Dorociak, age 51
Neutral—I was offended by the lack of recognition to Christs birth. It was all about commercialism and pagan decorations. My daughter and I did get a few laughs from it, but I would not see it again. I was quite disappointed in this film. And instead of acknowledging the commercialism, they seemed to play right into it.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—a Mom, age 40
Negative—I was bored to death. The movies is the one time my friends and I have a break, but I was very disappointed with this movie. The plot was pointless and the humor was slow. The part about the neighbors was semi-amusing but it’s not a movie I would see again.
My Ratings: [Good/1]
—anonymous, age 18
Positive—This movie is certainly worth the time and money despite what the major papers indicate. If you see the film you will realize that most of what the couple gets hassled about (for not “observing” Christmas) doesn’t have to do, at all, with the birth of Jesus. However, the end, although somewhat predictable, shows a true meaning of Christmas!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Bob C, age 40
Positive—This was one of the most refreshingly funny films I have seen in a long time! Not necessarily Oscar material, but a warm, fuzzy Christmas movie nevertheless. In response to the reviewer who said the plot was “unrealistic,” that was the point! The humor in the movie was because the characters were so over the top! It is definitely not for kids—not because there is anything wrong, but because the humor would probably go over their heads. Definitely a feel-good movie, perfect to sit and watch while you’re taking a break from the hectic Christmas season. Remember that while Christmas IS all about Christ, God wants us to laugh and enjoy the world that He has created—to remember the magnificent gift that He gave us in Christ, but also to celebrate the season. Remember, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” While not specifically mentioning Christ by name, this film depicts many of these qualities!
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Leanne, age 28
Positive—Very funny; I actually laughed out loud in the theater (rare for me). A nice little flick that will probably stick around in Christmas specials for the next sixty years or so. The only objectionable thing I found was the close-up shots of Curtis and Allen in tight bathing suits. No huge deal, though. I think it’s fine for everyone. But if you’re looking for true Christmas comedy, you have to watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It may be much more offensive, but it’s much much funnier.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Dana, age 19

Comments from young people
Positive—My family and I went to go see this movie a couple of weeks after it came out. We were all a little worried about it having some objectionable parts. We were very happy to see that we had no need to worry.It was great. Although some viewers found that they didn’t bring up Christ as the true meaning of Christmas, I think that they somewhat did. Jamie Lee Curtis’ part was set on giving and in the end, Tim Allen’s character learned that giving was more important than receiving. We were given the greatest gift of all on Christmas, Christ. Christmas is supposed to be a time where we share Jesus’ gift of giving by giving to others, and this movie certainly showed that. Although some people found it tasteless that the neighbors were given the cruise tickets, considering that the wife had cancer, I think that it was a great ending. True, in real life she may not have been able to enjoy the cruise or even go on it, but who’s to say that she couldn’t. Either way, it is truly the thought that counts. Had he kept those tickets, the movie would have ended with him remaining selfish and still not understanding the true meaning of Christmas. All together, my family and I loved this movie. It is a great family film and we look forward to it coming out.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Paige, age 15
Positive—I thought this movie was hilarious. My mother, my sister and I all thought that this movie couldn’t get any better. Great Job on making this spectacular movie.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Bethany, age 13
Neutral—The movie was very clean Hollywood, and somewhat christian oriented. The movie was not very original and not at all exciting. I would say adults could better relate to the movie then teens or kids, since the movie is about spending to much money at Christmas and your oldest child leaving the house.It is definitely not the best movie I have seen.
My Ratings: [Good/2½]
—Abigaio, age 15
Positive—It was a very good movie! The acting was great, the script was good.The only three things I did not like was a tanning scene in which the bathing suits were revealing, some small cussing and some marital sexual references between Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis which made me uncomfortable. The comedy was clean, and I enjoyed the family fun,it was hilarious and I laughed a lot!! I give it a 4 very good!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Aaron, age 12
Positive—This movie is a hilarious holiday treat. It is very clean compared to all the bad movies we see now a days. Me and my mom absolutely loved it, we had so much fun watching it. It doesn’t shove Santa in your face either. I recommend to bring the whole family to this movie and have fun.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Adam, age 14
Neutral—It was not too horrible… but too much for a PG rating I would think.
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Joel, age 16
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie. It was a well done Christmas movie. I only heard a couple cuss words. There was some sex terms like,” it’s not even Saturday night,” but that was it. It doesn’t talk about the true meaning of Christmas other than doing good will to others… other than that, this was a GREAT family movie.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Emily Reynolds, age 15
Movie Critics
…Many will criticize “Christmas with the Kranks” for its shallowness, but beneath the insanity—which is surprisingly funny—there’s a definite Christian message…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk
…A Christmas comedy where laughs and even Christmas joy are in short supply…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
…Instead of fresh routines and bright dialogue, we get routine physical comedy…
—Harper Barnes, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…the kind of movie that makes you want to punch a department-store Santa. It’s bad enough to bring out the Scrooge in almost anyone…
—Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic
…dreadful… it often seems like a lost episode of “Home Improvement” minus Allen’s usual TV wife…
—James Verniere, Boston Herald
…skip this… bound to make you Krank-y…
—USA Today