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Christmas with the Kranks

Luther Krank (Tim Allen) may not be Ebeneezer Scrooge, but he'll do until another one comes along. After he and his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) put their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) on a plane to South America for a Peace Corps mission, Luther adds up the cost of the previous year's holiday season: $6,100. Thus, since their only daughter is away, and he's not terribly fond of cold, wet winters, he offers Nora a proposition — boycott Christmas altogether for just one year and take a 10-day Caribbean cruise, which will cost a mere half of their Christmas expenses. After some negotiation, Nora agrees. But a "boycott" means exactly that — with the exception of two annual donations to charity, Luther refuses to participate in any seasonal activities, including the office party and his neighborhood's street decorations, and he won't give a dime to the Boy Scouts' tree sale or the police department's calendar drive. But it's hard to keep a low profile, especially on the Kranks' street. Neighbors notice that the Kranks' fiberglass Frosty the Snowman has not been hoisted on their roof, and two in particular — Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd) and Walt Scheel (M. Emmet Walsh) — aren't above intimidation tactics if such means getting Luther and Nora in the proper holiday spirit. But despite their efforts, Blair's decision to come home from South America with her new boyfriend is what makes the difference, and with just 24 hours to plan, Christmas at the Krank homestead is once again on. Joe Roth's lighthearted Christmas with the Kranks (2004) comes across as a far better TV movie than a major theatrical release, which isn't necessarily a bad thing — as a contemporary Christmas title with a traditional theme, an appealing cast, and nothing in the way of crude humor or language, it's bound to become a seasonal staple on the small screen. It also proved popular with audiences in theaters, grossing $73 million (although such only offset a surprisingly high $60 million budget). Sony wisely decided to delay the DVD release for nearly a year to capitalize on Christmas yet again, which means Kranks will find its way into more than a few stockings. Nonetheless, despite its wholesome nature, this is not It's a Wonderful Life. The script (written by Chris Columbus from a John Grisham novel) is content to move from one awkward moment to the next in the early going, offering little in the way of plot progression, while also making it clear that boycotting Christmas in the Kranks' town is akin to being a card-carrying member of Al Quada. There's also plenty of broad comedy and pratfalls, although Tim Allen offers a standout bit of physical comedy while having lunch after a Botox treatment. For what it is, Kranks is a serviceable holiday picture, although virtually all of the credit goes to the two leads — Allen and Curtis's interactions are consistently more amusing than the hordes of neighbors who besiege them, and they present a fairly authentic view of a happily married couple, which isn't seen all that much in Hollywood movies anymore. In fact, at times they're an awfully good screen couple, making one hope they'll be seen together again — although perhaps not in a film with "Kranks" in title. Sony/Columbia TriStar's Christmas with the Kranks offers solid anamorphic (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan (1.33) transfers on separate disc layers, while audio comes through clear on a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Oddly enough, for DVD that was delayed for nearly a year, the only supplements to be found here are trailers for Sony titles. Keep-case.

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