The UnPopular Opinion: Christmas with the Kranks

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


For my final Christmas-themed column of the year, I wanted to pick a movie that is actually good rather than trash beloved classics and fan favorites. It is easy to find fault in any holiday movie for being overly saccharine or too cliche. Hell, the entire December programming runs on Freeform and Hallmark are chock full of those types of movies. When studios invest millions in making a big screen caliber Christmas movie, they need to be sure they know what they are doing. Knowing these movies tend to only get play for a month, maybe two, each year means they have to hit every note. CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is a movie that doesn't delve too deeply into anything you haven't seen before but does so with enough heart and laughter that you cannot help but find yourself smiling through the movie.

Released in 2004, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS holds an awful 5% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. It is simply amazing that this movie is so maligned, especially considering the spot-on cast and crew. Starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is adapted by Chris Columbus (HOME ALONE, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR'S STONE) from the bestselling novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. The combination of Allen, whose SANTA CLAUSE franchise are box office gold, and Columbus' experience with Christmas-themed movies, should have made this an easy hit. Add to that the fact that it was directed by studio executive Joe Roth (REVENGE OF THE NERDS II), and this is the exact formula most studios would be willing to bank on.

comedy, Tim Allen, Jamie Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Chris Columbus, Joe Roth, Christmas With The Kranks, 2004, The UnPopular Opinion

Mainstream Christmas films tend to come in two varieties: sentimental dramas or sentimental comedies. Invariably, they always end with the characters embracing the true meaning of the holiday. What CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS does is satirize the nature of the biggest holiday of the year. Sure, there is the emotional ending that redeems the characters from their coal-worthy behavior, but there has not been a film that has lampooned the ridiculous conformity of Christmas since Arnold Schwarzenegger in JINGLE ALL THE WAY. Here's the plot in a nutshell: Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip celebrating Christmas since their only child has gone away for the holiday. By not decorating their home or having their annual party, they unleash the wrath and judgement of their traditionalist neighbors. While Luther is absolutely okay with being the neighborhood Grinch, it all comes crashing down when their daughter changes her mind at the last minute and they have to scramble to get the house ready.

From a plot standpoint, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is very thin. There is a structure to the story but not much explanation or motivation as to why it is so important for the town of Riverside, Illinois to care as much as they do about Christmas. Having recently moved into a neighborhood with very specific guidelines and rules for Christmas decorations, it becomes abundantly clear that this film is spoofing the intensity of the Yuletide season. There are multiple programs on TV about excessively decorated homes, but Joe Roth and Chris Columbus treat the community shaming of the Kranks almost like THE STEPFORD WIVES or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Christmas commercialism and conformity are two themes that this film plays with, even if it is not handled in the most subtle manner.

What also works in CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is the slapstick humor. Like Columbus' HOME ALONE, this film is full of pratfals and injuries that would never be funny in a real life scenario but accentuate the over-the-top nature of this story. Seeing Tim Allen freeze his sidewalk to intentionally torture neighbors and a local cat is stupid, but it is stupid funny. Director Joe Roth showcases all of these moments in a family friendly manner that can have kids and their grandparents chuckling along safely and sharing in a story that is absolutley harmless. Often, we equate harmless movies with bad movies, but this film has it's heart in the right place, even if some of the jokes completely miss their target. Jokes like Tim Allen's Luther Krank getting botox is clearly a dated reference to when this movie was made (and doesn't even resemble what the injections actually look like). Still, like THE SANTA CLAUSE, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS serves as a time capsule for how our culture and society viewed the holidays in the early 2000s.

While Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis put their all into their titular characters, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS has a pretty nice supporting cast as well, including Dan Aykroyd. The GHOSTBUSTERS star plays the Kranks' neighbor who is at odds with Luther's decision and Aykroyd channels his GREAT OUTDOORS character many times. Other familiar faces include Cheech Marin and Jake Busey in small roles as local cops as well as character actors M. Emmett Walsh and the late Tom Poston. Poston, who looks like every small town character ever, has a great scene with Jamie Lee Curtis who still looks damn good in a bikini. Aside from a random appearance by the real Santa Claus, this is a fairly grounded spoof of what small town Christmas celebrations have become.

comedy, Tim Allen, Jamie Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Chris Columbus, Joe Roth, Christmas With The Kranks, 2004, The UnPopular Opinion

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is over-the-top, silly, bizarre, cheesy, goofy, and sentimental. It is also a movie that you cannot help but laugh at. Not because it is bad but because it is trying to mock the overly-commercialized Christmas season while simultaneously begging you to partake in the silliness. All of us have bemoaned how insane Christmas shopping and decorating has become, myself included, and yet I constantly find myself enjoying silly Christmas music, ugly sweaters, and spending time with my family (even when some of them annoy the shit out of me). CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is about what we miss when we don't take part in those shenanigans. Has this story been told before and better? Of course, but rarely has it been done with tongue so firmly in cheek.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected] or spell it out in the comments below,. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!


About the Author

5925 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.