The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: Christmas With The Kranks

As we all know, there is no such thing as the “War on Christmas.” It’s a cynical, manipulative, disingenuous ploy on the part of Bill O’Reilly and FOX News to (annually) stir the Angry Hatred and White Fear Pot amidst their less-informed, more-reactionary viewers. On the one hand, it is COMPLETEY REASONABLE for someone to say “Happy Holidays” to someone else, as it suggests that you’re being respectful of the fact that you do not necessarily know their heart, and that you appreciate that person’s autonomous adult self-actualization. Meanwhile, no one gives a shit, no duh, if someone says “Merry Christmas.” That has never offended a single person, because we are all grown ups living in a world beset by wars and famines and oil sludges and economic crises. Not to mention that it’s just not an offensive thing to say, even if there weren’t bigger problems going on in the world. There is no cohesive, organized attempt to denude the nation of its religious holidays, because no one WANTS THAT, and the plain and obvious evidence of this is visible in the Christmas shit that is literally EVERYWHERE. And yet, each year, the alarms are sounded once more. It’s such a stupid lie that the fact it works at all is crazy-making. Shut up, Bill O’Reilly. Shut up, FOX News.

Speaking of stupid lies about Christmas that are so stupid they are crazy-making and should shut up, Christmas with the Kranks is one.

Christmas with the Kranks is about Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) who have just shipped their daughter off to Peru with the Peace Corps and are now facing the prospect of a Christmas alone. After getting rained on, Luther sees a poster in a window that says “Tired of getting rained on? Go on a Caribbean cruise vacation!” Seriously. “I am do what the nice poster say!” Here’s a question: why is it raining in Chicago two weeks before Christmas? And if it is raining, why is there snow in the ground? Actually, just in general, what is the timeline on this thing? Much like Love, Actually, Christmas with the Cranks operates on an INSANE timeline where everything that occurs is condensed into three weeks supposedly, and it’s like, what? But so anyway: Luke and Nora are going to go on a Caribbean cruise for Christmas. Fair enough. THEY ARE BOTH ADULTS WHO GET TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT, AFTER ALL. But not only are they going to go away on a Caribbean cruise for Christmas, they also are going to skip Christmas altogether. This means no tree, no lights, no parties, no nothing. Again: FAIR ENOUGH. THAT IS A DECISION ADULTS CAN MAKE. And this is where the movie, which was already in bad shape, falls apart completely. Because no one will let the Kranks skip Christmas. Their neighbors–even the neighborhood children–are outraged that they won’t put up some, like, inflatable snowman decoration or something? They terrorize them and give them dirty looks and then the whole thing is on THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPER.


The day before their cruise, the Kranks get a phone call from their daughter, Blair, who tells them that she is coming home for Christmas. Wait a second, didn’t she JUST LEAVE two weeks ago? I’m not a Peace Corps expert, but I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to just fly home two weeks after you get to your village, or whatever. Oh, also Blair is coming home with her FIANCE because she GOT ENGAGED. What? What is even going on? Nora Krank is very excited that her daughter is coming home and promises her that they will have a Klassik Kranks Christmas. Uh oh! That means they have to get all of the decorations and hams and party guests in just a matter of hours! That is when the neighbors step in and organize some kind of Christmas Street Team and wouldn’t you know, they donate turkeys and wreaths and ornaments and basically turn the Kranks’s house into one of those creepy Christmas superstores that are open year-round, whatever THAT is even all about. The daughter comes home and NEVER EVEN KNEW THAT HER PARENTS MIGHT HAVE GONE ON A CRUISE. Huh? Who cares? She’s old enough to do charity work in Peru but she’s not old enough to know a REALLY BORING TRUTH? They catch a burglar in the driveway? But Luther Krank is still grumpy that he doesn’t get to go on the cruise. But then he decides to give the tickets to these two old people across the street, one of whom is dying of cancer, because something something spirit of bullshit. Then it turns out the real Santa Clause as at their holiday party, I think? He seemed like maybe a pervert, but it turned out it was Santa Clause?


For a Tim Allen movie, Christmas with the Kranks is surprisingly restrained. Sure, he slips and falls off a roof and a passing car drenches him with a puddle…

…but for the most part it’s all very low-level slapstick. Which raises the question: where is the comedy supposed to be coming from? At least people falling down would make sense as a joke, but I’m not real clear on what’s supposed to be funny about a next door neighbor being incensed that you won’t put lights around your door. Perhaps the reason this doesn’t track as a comedic premise (or really any kind of premise) is that it is ABSOLUTE NONSENSE. Adults do not berate other adults for taking a warm weather vacation in the middle of winter. Perhaps the weirdest thing about this whole movie is how hard it tries to pretend like the Kranks are weird when they seem entirely normal. Like, an adult couple whose child has left the house deciding they don’t want to go through a big production for the holidays is thoroughly commonplace and acceptable. But in this movie everyone is like:

What’s wrong with you people? Is this really how adults behave?

(Also: why are they singing FASTER? That is not a thing!)

Similarly, what is wrong with the Kranks? BE ADULTS. You don’t have to constantly cower behind your blinds, or hide in the basement. You’re allowed to do what you want, and you should know that by now. And when you learn that you’re getting a surprise visit from your daughter, why do you need to lie to her and why can’t she, as a fellow adult, understand why the house isn’t overly decorated? You could even still go on your trip if you wanted, since you spent a lot of money on it. She’s 23 years old, she doesn’t need a babysitter. Is that how you raised her? Just an endless succession of placating lies and insufferable babying? Maybe that’s why she gave up on the Peace Corps two weeks into her program and got instantly engaged to a guy she barely knows. Because of what awful parenting skills you guys have. When they first make the decision to go on a cruise, Luther writes a Jerry Maguire style anti-Christmas letter and circulates it to everyone in his office, including a delivery guy. Why did he do that? He is an adult. He doesn’t have to explain himself. Does he know that? Someone should tell him that. And at another point, with his face straight PEELING OFF from TOO MUCH TANNING, Luther gets botox and dresses like Leisure Suit Larry.

As someone who has TAKEN A VACATION BEFORE, I can tell you that this stuff just makes no sense. A plane ticket doesn’t make you a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AND SUDDENLY HORRIBLE NIGHTMARE GARBAGE PERSON FROM PALM SPRINGS. So stupid and weird. So lie.

Christmas with the Kranks is based on a novel called Skipping Christmas written by John Grisham. Yikes. Should have stuck with the law stuff, dude. (Obviously, Skipping Christmas has sold a guhjillion copies and increased John Grisham’s untold Scrooge McDuck style millions, but lots of things that are terrible sell really well and make people a lot of money. So what?! We can still cross our arms and harumph about it.) Now imagine this movie was white, or whatever.

I do love that the movie wants so bad to be a CHRISTMAS MOVIE that despite the Kranks’s “insane” (not insane) refusal to celebrate Christmas or put up any decorations, much to the borderline violent protest of their friends and family and neighbors, their house still has Christmas decorations up?


Next week: Four Christmas.