CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS and SCROOGED- A BUMPER CHRISTMAS DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS. 2004. DIRECTED BY JOE ROTH. PRODUCED BY CHRIS COLUMBUS, MARK RADCLIFFE AND MICHAEL BARNATHAN. BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘SKIPPING CHRISTMAS’ BY JOHN GRISHAM. STARRING TIM ALLEN, JAMIE LEE CURTIS, DAN AYKROYD, ERIK PER SULLIVAN, JULIE GONZALO, CHEECH MARIN AND JAKE BUSEY.
SCROOGED. 1988. DIRECTED BY RICHARD DONNER. BASED ON ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ BY CHARLES DICKENS. STARRING BILL MURRAY, ROBERT MITCHUM, KAREN ALLEN, JOHN FORSYTHE, CAROL KANE AND BOBCAT GOLDTHWAITE.
These two American Christmas comedies are a right little couple of festive crackers! I watched ’em both back-to-back on Christmas Eve this year and I must say it was the best fun ever. Kudos (for once!) to Irish television, haha.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS is the story of a married couple who, finding themselves unexpectedly alone for Christmas, decide to skip the holiday season altogether and go on a cruise. However, the whole idea turns out to be not as simple as it seems when their entire neighbourhood takes umbrage at the idea of a family not entering into the Christmas spirit and the Kranks have to fight tooth-and-nail to be allowed to give the holiday season a miss like they want to.
SCROOGED is another variation on that perennnial Christmas favourite, Charles Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I often wonder what Mr. Dickens would say if he knew how popular his little story, written in Victorian times, had turned out to be with TV producers and film-makers. Think of the royalties he’d be raking in if he were alive today! My personal favourite adaptation is A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (it’s just gorgeous and so heartwarming!), but SCROOGED is a pretty decent version too.
It’s the story of Frank Cross, a TV network executive who’s so cynical and self-serving that he makes the original Scrooge look like flippin’ Mother Teresa. He’s planning an extravagant live version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL on Christmas Eve purely to grab ratings for his station, but in so doing he’s forcing a load of people to work late on Christmas Eve, thereby ruining Christmas for them and their families. Does he care? Does he f**k…!
Anyway, as per the original story, a ghostly visit from his old (and very dead!) boss prefaces further visitations from three spirits, each one weirder and wackier than the last, to show him the error of his ways. Does Frank soften and grab this one last chance to turn his cold, lonely life around? Well, you know how the book ends, but Frank is an awfully contrary bugger so watch out for funny twists and turns along the way…
Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant in CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS as the typically American mom who would normally as soon chew off her own foot as skip Christmas and all its inherent traditions. Speaking of which, the Kranks’ neighbourhood is so fantastically decorated for the festive season it makes the lovely neighbourhood in HOME ALONE (brought to you by the same people) pale into insignifance by comparison. The Americans really know how to celebrate Christmas and they are second to none- none, I tells ya!- when it comes to gussying up the houses in their locality.
The outrage caused to the locals by the Kranks’ decision to boycott Christmas is hilarious. Dan Aykroyd does a terrific job as Vic Frohmeyer, the unspoken leader of Hemlock Street, who makes his displeasure known in no uncertain terms to the Kranks. His son Spike is played by the little chap who portrays Dewey in hit sitcom MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE. He’s cute as a button and sharp as a tack and he’s cleverly made to wear his woolly hat above his ears to highlight the way they stick out, just like elf or pixie ears, haha.
The chaos that ensues when the Kranks’ spoilt princess of a daughter, Blair, decides to come home for Crimbo after all and Luther and Nora Krank have to suddenly magic a fully-formed Christmas out of their butts has to be seen to be believed. Can they pull it off? Maybe, but they can’t do it alone. Have they alienated their neighbours too much for them to rally round now? That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, folks. And the clock is inexorably ticking, ticking, ticking…
Highlights of this film include the hilarious FREE FROSTY campaign, the race to bagsy the last hickory honey ham, the Kranks meeting the local priest at the tanning salon and little Dewey, sorry, Spike, putting a burglar on his honour to come back to the cop car after he’s warmed himself at the party and scoffed a few sandwiches. The ending will have you in floods of tears. I guarantee it.
Bill Murray plays a blinder (that’s a compliment, by the way!) as Frank Cross in SCROOGED. He’s as nasty as Rik Mayall’s Alan B’stard in ‘Eighties/’Nineties sitcom THE NEW STATESMAN and Rowan Atkinson’s BLACKADDER combined. ‘Scrape ’em off,’ is his motto, referring to the duds and deadbeats he thinks should be consigned to the dung-heap of life. ‘If you’re gonna save anyone, save yourself.’ Or words to that effect, anyway. Gee, what a nice guy…
Carol Kane is excellent too as the petite little fairy who likes to kick men in the balls. Well, sure, where’s the harm in that, heh-heh-heh…? There surely isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t like to try it at least once. It’s lovely to see Robert Mitchum in his role as the all-omnipotent boss of the IBC network and Bobcat Goldthwaite is funny too as Eliot Loudermilk, the sacked underling with a voice like nails on a blackboard mixed with the soothing sound of seagulls fighting over a fish.
I have just one problem with the typically schmaltzy ending. How is Frank gonna make good his promises to Eliot when he’s most likely just been the cause of the poor guy going to jail for a long, long time for threatening a roomful of people with a shotgun on Frank’s explicit instructions…? Ah well. It’s not our problem, I suppose…
Highlights of SCROOGED include all scenes with the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future in them, the lads down at the homeless shelter thinking that Frank is Richard Burton and the whole can we/can’t we see her nipples? thing. Both films are an absolutely unmissable Christmas watch and seeing ’em back-to-back on a damp and drizzly Christmas Eve night was a pleasure indeed.
I hope you guys get a load of nice stuff in your Christmas stockings and that we’ll all be watching and reviewing many great films together in 2016. Happy Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year to both my readers, haha…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
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