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      Christmas With the Kranks Review

      Christmas With the Kranks poster

      Christmas With the Kranks

      Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

      "Christmas with the Kranks," a wholly Midwestern affair focused almost entirely on a single street in suburban Chicago, was filmed in a former Boeing aircraft factory in Downey, Calif., 15 miles east of Los Angeles.

      This is, of course, quite unremarkable - save for the fact that the filmmakers preferred to shoot in a genuine heartland neighborhood but, after scouting locations from Illinois to Minnesota, simply couldn't find one genuine enough.

      You just had to get aluminum siding, didn't you?

      No matter. From set to stunts, "Christmas with the Kranks" is phony, disingenuous family entertainment, suffocated by its green bean casserole approach to Middle America, spineless cardboard characters and paper-thin plot "twists."

      Directed by Joe Roth and based on a novel by legal eagle John Grisham, it's the tale of reluctant empty nesters Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis), whose daughter Blair leaves home the day after Thanksgiving for a stint in the Peace Corps. (Never mind that Barbie-blond Blair looks more designer than do-gooder; Luther and Nora obviously raised that girl right.)

      With the kid off doing peace-y things, Luther gets the bright idea to funnel funds normally committed to holiday hoopla into a couples Caribbean cruise (departure date: Dec. 25) and prods his wife, the personification of Christmas Past in her appliqué sweater vests, to - Jesus, Mary and Joseph! - skip Christmas this year.

      Yep, you read it right. Bail on Christmas. Snub Santa. Kick Rudolph to the curb.

      The Kranks' Hemlock Street neighbors are as appalled as you are, the most vocal among them cul-de-sac captain Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), who orchestrates a community-wide campaign to free Frosty, the Styrofoam snowman imprisoned in the Kranks' basement.

      Committed to withstanding the pressures of the season, the Kranks have their funny moments. Curtis is quite the physical comedian as she dives for her grocer's last honey ham, and Allen does a great bit on the perils of Botox as he and Nora beautify for their upcoming vacation.

      But while the film dangles in front of us the prospect of bona fide holiday cynicism and a non-responsive Secret Santa, it quickly reveals itself as just another scam in this sugar-shellacked season.

      Christmas cranks, look elsewhere for your fix. Like out your genuine window.

      "Christmas With the Kranks"

      Directed by Joe Roth; screenplay by Chris Columbus; based on the novel "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham; photographed by Don Burgess; edited by Nick Moore; production designed by Garreth Stover; produced by Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan; A Revolution Studios release; opened Wednesday, Nov. 24. Running time: 1:39. MPAA rating: PG (brief language and suggestive content).

      Luther Krank - Tim Allen

      Nora Krank - Jamie Lee Curtis

      Blair Krank - Julie Gonzalo

      Vic Frohmeyer - Dan Aykroyd

      Officer Salino - Cheech Marin

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