This Christmas Movie With A 5% Rotten Tomatoes Score Is Actually Great


This Christmas Movie With A 5% Rotten Tomatoes Score Is Actually GreatAlamy

With a 5% score, Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe this movie is a Christmas turkey – but I disagree. 

While we all pivot to our cherished cache of reliable holiday favourites, there are some truly abysmal festive films out there: Home Alone 4, Christmas with the Coopers, the Black Christmas remake(s), Surviving Christmas, Jack Frost (the horror one, leave Michael Keaton out of this) and I’ll Be Home For Christmas, to name a few.


Maybe it’s the direly unfunny scripts, perhaps it’s the bile-inducing schmaltz; sometimes, there’s just not enough Christmas cheer to win us over. Apparently, right at the bottom of the pile, one movie deserves justice: Christmas with the Kranks.

Christmas with the Kranks. (Sony Pictures)Sony Pictures

Based on John Grisham’s novel, Joe Roth’s 2004 film has some serious talent at the helm: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd, not to mention a script from Chris Columbus, a reputable Xmas movie legend with Home Alone and Gremlins under his belt.

The movie opens just after Thanksgiving, with Luther (Allen) and Nora (Curtis) preparing for their daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) to leave for a whole year with the Peace Corps. As Nora weeps about how Christmas won’t be the same, Luther comes up with an idea that’ll let them escape from the misery and save them money: a luxury cruise leaving at high noon on Christmas Day.


The catch? They skip Christmas altogether, forgoing all the usual traditions and expenditures. This quickly rankles everyone in their neighbourhood. ‘Christmas has always been a community thing around here, you know that,’ Aykroyd’s ‘ward boss for the street’ says. Holiday hijinks – aggressive carolling, icy pavements, near-death falls with Frosty – soon ensue.

The reviews are eye-wateringly scathing. ‘Christmas With the Kranks doesn’t have anything wrong with it that couldn’t be fixed by adding Ebenezer Scrooge and Bad Santa to the cast. It’s a holiday movie of stunning awfulness that gets even worse when it turns gooey at the end,’ Roger Ebert wrote.

Christmas with the Kranks. (Sony Pictures)Sony Pictures

‘I’m making my list of the worst movies of the year and I’m checking it twice, and I hope to find room for this frantically unfunny disaster,’ Richard Roeper also wrote.

I’m the first to admit that subtlety isn’t the film’s strength; why have a character named Scrooge, who acts like Scrooge, when you could call them Luther? ‘I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards.’

I’ll also concede there’s something rather insidious about its endorsement of community co-dependence at Christmas, as well as its overwhelming ‘capitalism rules!’ vibes. In another movie, a couple feeling depressed about Christmas without their one and only daughter deciding to take a break for themselves would be praised, not condemned.

Jamie Leigh Curtis in Christmas with the Kranks. (Sony Pictures)Sony Pictures

Yet, with so much sickly sweet stories to tell during the season, a dash of misanthropy goes a long way; watching Luther stubbornly knock back all the rituals of Christmas is particularly delicious as the slapstick ramps up.

And, after all his infuriating ignorance when Blair comes home, I still get a little choked up by his last-ditch effort to do a selfless deed for once. I haven’t even mentioned the Earth-shattering twist that swooshes across the end credits.

Maybe I just like watching Jamie Lee Curtis chase a ham in a car park.

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Topics: Film and TV, Christmas

Cameron Frew
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