It’s that time of the year again; while family members get together and celebrate, studios decide to invest not an ounce of effort into churning out egregious, Christmas – themed ‘comedies’. Indeed, amidst all of the cheer and festivity lies a particularly detestable genre of film: Christmas movies. And among those awful movies lies one of the worst Christmas movie of them all: Christmas With The Kranks.
The film opens up with a couple, Luther and Nora Krank, sending their daughter, Blair Krank, off to Peru for a Peace Corps assignment. After arriving at their home, Luther suggests to Nora that the two skip Christmas altogether; as it turns out, the two spend exorbitant sums of money on Christmas gifts and accessories that often go to waste. Luther secures two tickets on a cruise in the Caribbean, saving several thousand dollars. There’s only one problem: the townsfolk in their neighborhood are all incredibly devoted to the holiday, and do not take kindly to the Krank’s leaving on holiday, only because part of the Krank’s Christmas budget is spent on throwing a lavish Christmas party that the entire town participates in. Then, in a fit of utter stupidity, the couple decide to alert everyone in their workplace and neighborhood of their departure, effectively alienating them from the entire town. As the days go by, the couple prepare for their cruise vacation by purchasing swimsuits, tanning, and receiving botox injections. Meanwhile, the townsfolk are determined to win some insipid Christmas decoration contest. The Kranks have a particularly impressive model snowman that have always won the neighborhood the competition. Except, now, for some unstated reason, the Kranks refuse to give the model to the nieghborhood, so in turn, the neighborhood opt to engage in various crimes, including, but not limited to, harassment and trespassing. You’d probably think that the police would sort it out, but it the police are equally as spiteful towards the Kranks, and thus turn a blind eye to the crime. despite suffering humiliation, the Kranks still stand their ground. However, their daughter decides to come home for the holidays, and bring her boyfriend, Enrique (the most useless character in, quite possibly, all of cinematic history). Suddenly, Nora and Luther do a complete 180; they decorate their home and commit crimes themselves by breaking into a house and stealing a tree. The neighborhood half-heartedly forgives the couple and they host the party. But then the film has to drag on and on. Luther attempts to convince Nora to go on the cruise. Nora angrily refuses. In the span of about five seconds. Luther has another change of heart, donating the cruise tickets to particularly spiteful neighbors. Then he comes in. Then there’s some subplot where one of the kids at the party invites a criminal who pretends to have kids whom he must feed. The policemen, who are also at the party, arrest the guy. Then the film ends.
With films such as these, I try to list out the good aspects before delving into the mistakes. However, I could only come up with two aspects: a) the set design was good, and b) the camera was in focus.
Christmas With The Kranks has several of the following issues, such as
a) Lousy, chop-cut editing
b) Over-the-top performances
c) Ignorance of how to churn out humour
d) Characters that are either flat and boring, or outrageously annoying
e) bland cinematography
But the fundamental issues that must be addressed are the characters, the plot, and the humour, all of which culminate into a terrible message that the filmmakers unintentionally conveyed.
The characters, as I’ve mentioned above, are awful. The supporting characters, which are essentially the neighborhood folks, come off as derisive and entitled. They expect the Kranks to blow thousands of dollars for their own pleasure. They expect the Kranks to provide them with expensive Christmas decorations in order to win some vapid contest. They expect that the Kranks shower them with lavish gifts and treat them to an expensive party, complete with champagne and a feast. The message they all seem to convey is ‘I’m your neighbor, give me money’. As a result, there’s no pleasure or a sense of victory in seeing the neighborhoods finally indulging in the party that they have so ardently desired, only a feeling of frustration and exasperation. In their attempt to portray the Kranks as selfish and self-indulgent, the filmmakers have, in a case of extreme irony, exposed the egregious personalities of the neighbors. However, the Kranks aren’t particularly likable either. Every scene involving them seems to be a failed attempt at comedy. Ultimately, the Kranks are seen as stupid rather than funny, much less compelling or likable. Therefore, the film makes it extremely difficult (or simply impossible) to support any of the characters.
The filmmakers try to create surrealist comedy, yet they fail in doing so for two reasons. The first reason why this film offers not a single funny scene is the same reason that Freddy Got Fingered was not funny: no one acts like a normal human being. The film is devoid of any logic or normality. All of the characters’ antics are seen as commonplace. The second reason is due to the poor writing. Successful surrealist comedies, such as the Spongebob TV show and film(s), utilise good writing to create surrealist humour. Christmas With The Kranks offers no humour due to the lack of punchlines or any good writing, for that matter.
The plot is also problematic. What the writers don’t seem to realise is that Luther and Nora’s decision to skip Christmas is actually a perfectly logical and common thing to do. There are several families who do not engage in Christmas, or celebrate another way in order to save money. Yet the film treats the Krank’s skipping Christmas as some sort of despicable crime. The last third of the film is where the plot loses all fluidity. The third act is a culmination of what I have identified as three subplots: the aforementioned instance where a criminal is allowed in (this subplot seems to be entirely independent from the film, leading me to believe that it may a skit that was thrown into lengthen the movie), the subplot where Blair comes home with her boyfriend (who, I might add, has about 3 lines in the film and is only features and mentioned for about five minutes), and the final subplot where Luther has a change of heart and gives away the tickets. Scenes and subplots jumble together into a cluster of mass idiocy, and it’s utterly jarring to watch.
With these three problematic aspects, the film, initially well-meaning and innocent, inadvertently tells the audience this: In order to preserve the ‘holiday spirit’, you should harass unenthusiastic neighbors with absolutely no concern as to whether what you’re doing is legal, encourage a mob mentality among neighbors with the intention of witch hunting unenthusiastic neighbors, and act like an embittered, entitled, scornful, contemptuous toddler. If you are an a person who is not particularly excited for Christmas, you should give into the demands of the people so long as they are the majority, then proceed to spend thousands of dollars for a party.
The inherent problem with these Christmas movies is that they are meant to capitalise on people’s desire to have a fun holiday. Studios believe that there is absolutely no need to put forth any effort into making films, so long as they can generate millions of dollars from people seeking holiday – themed media. And because their intention to make money outweighs their desire to make a good movie, these Christmas movies will never be good. While this practice is despicable nonetheless, some responsibility does fall on the viewer. If people opt to settle for lazy, poorly-crafted entertainment, these holiday movies will be consistently produced. Now that wouldn’t be particularly holly nor jolly, now would it?