others. Not this year. This year there will be no shopping, gift
giving or cooking ham because the Kranks are skipping Christmas.
"Christmas with the Kranks" is based on a story by John Grisham,
"Skipping Christmas." Known for his courtroom dramas ("The Pelican
Brief," "The Firm"), Grisham has skipped his usual lawyer stories to
write a light-hearted black comedy about the pressures social groups
exert upon others, especially during the holidays.
The majority of the film is faithful to the book, but comparing
the film to the book is akin to comparing a round peg to a square
hole. They are two different mediums. Novels focus on what characters
are thinking and feeling. Movies are concerned with what characters
are doing and the activities they engage in.
The book delves into the inner thoughts of what Luther and Nora
are feeling and how they are emotionally handling the peer pressure
about their decision to leave town. The film, however, focuses more
on how Luther and Nora react and how they avoid giving into the
pressure, usually by trying to avoid their friends and neighbors,
without great success.
Luther and Nora's strong community ties become the main reason for
the backlash they experience at the hands of their friends, neighbors
and co-workers. Every year, the Kranks throw the best Christmas Eve
party, they give generously to local charities and participate in the
annual neighborhood Christmas decorating contest. Of course, no one
wants them to stop. But the Kranks are not looking at what they are
missing out on; instead, they are imagining the great new adventure
they are going to take starting Dec. 25. That is where the comedy
earns its best laughs.
Co-star Jamie Lee Curtis has taken to lampooning her image
recently. Her ability to poke fun at her body is at its best in the
scene when she and Luther go to a tanning salon. Curtis has made the
surprising and rare transition from being the sexy actress in scary
films ("Halloween") to comedian, starting with "True Lies" and going
through "Freaky Friday." Her comedy stems from the character she
plays. Nora is afraid of her own shadow, greatly concerned with what
others think about her and wants to please everyone. Pleasing Luther,
for example, gets her into a most embarrassing situation at the mall.
Allen is funny, but his routines in the movie are a break from
character, lessening the effectiveness of the comedy. Luther is so
oblivious to other people's feelings, and so prides himself on his
intelligence that he wouldn't allow himself to get into the
embarrassing situations he does. But Tim Allen the comedian would,
and it becomes impossible to keep from laughing.
Allen does have a golden touch, being able to make audiences feel
good and get in the spirit by the end of the story with his Christmas
movies. If you need to jump start getting into the holiday mood or
just enjoy Christmas movies in general, "Christmas With the Kranks"
deserves your attention.
* PEGGY J. ROGERS, 40, produces commercial videos and