JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Directed by: Joe Roth
Starring: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M.Emmet Walsh, Cheech Marin

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2004 American festive comedy is directed by Joe Roth and stars Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M.Emmet Walsh, and Cheech Marin.

When young Blair Krank (Gonzalo) leaves for Peru in the Peace Corps after Thanksgiving, her parents Luther (Allen) and Nora (Curtis) agree to invest the thousands of dollars they usually spend in Christmas decorations, food and gifts to fund a luxury cruise; skipping Christmas in their local neighbourhood.

They start to become frowned upon by their neighbours, none more so than Vic Frohmeyer (Aykroyd), who takes charge in rallying everyone to decorate their houses to win the local prize for best decorations. Luther stands his ground after coming under pressure from Vic, community carol singers and even local children, all hoping for him to reconsider and keep the festive spirit alive.

But on Christmas Eve, hours before departing, Blair calls to reveal she is engaged and is en-route home with her new fiancé to spend Christmas at home once more. Nora is more than willing to drop the cruise and rally around for last-minute decorations, food and gifts to welcome her daughter home, but Luther will face more of a battle to convince others to help him before Blair arrives home to nothing…

Probably one of the few Christmas films that I think is ok every year before watching, but when I actually DO watch it I remember how poor it really is on the surface. It’s got everything you need for a basic, run-of-the-mill madcap seasonal film; the festive community, chaotic shopping sprees, decoration disasters, a picture-perfect happy ending with cranky neighbours and bitter families alongside slapstick chaos…but something about this film is done in a way that is more irritating and drab than others.

Most of the film spends time making you resent the community the Kranks life in, as the basis of the story revolves around how two parents, parted from their grown-up daughter, want to go away on a cruise for Christmas. Sounds nice. BUT we are introduced to cantankerous and creepy, stalker-ish neighbours, headed by a silly and wasted Dan Aykroyd, who spend a good portion of the time bullying, moaning and threatening the Kranks to make them stay around and decorate their home.

Basically, pushing them into something they have no right to participate in. The Kranks are a very irritating couple from the outset – frumpy Jamie Lee Curtis comes across as very screechy and very unstable. Tim Allen, who increasingly comes over like he is the King of Christmas Comedy (after his ‘Santa Clause Trilogy’), gurns, goofs and over-acts his way through this in a series of un-funny set pieces, dialogue exchanges and slapstick humour. 

With an irritating couple to start with, mixed with a creepy community, this doesn’t give you anything other than maybe a few chuckles as the mad-cap dash to escape Christmas ensues (it’s been done better), and then the finale of the film has it all reversed for a mad-cap dash to build Christmas (it’s been done better).

Very flat and clichéd supporting characters – the lazy cops, the grumpy old man, the cheeky children – give you something that is very un-memorable and rather un-funny unless you like your Christmas films to come over as very over-acted, very hammy and very tacky – festive films are usually a mix of all three, but there is usually a charm behind them. This has nothing like that.

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JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)

Directed by: Michael Lembeck
Starring: Tim Allen, Martin Short, Elizabeth Mitchell, Liliana Mumy, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson with Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2006 American festive film is directed by Michael Lembeck and is the third and final instalment in the ‘Santa Clause’ trilogy. It stars Tim Allen, Martin Short, Elizabeth Mitchell, Liliana Mumy, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson with Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret.

With Carol Claus (Mitchell) expecting her first child, Santa Claus/Scott Calvin (Allen) decides to unite the families at the North Pole to help boost her spirit as their secrets prevent contact with many in the outside world. Ex-wife Laura (Crewson), her husband Neil (Reinhold) and daughter Lucy (Mumy) visit with Carol’s parents Bud (Arkin) and Sylvia (Margret), but under the illusion that they are really in Canada, and Scott is a toy manufacturer.

Meanwhile, envious by Santa’s popularity, Legendary Figure Jack Frost (Short) pretends to help Santa prepare for Christmas, but really starts creating chaos by sabotaging many of the workshops and machines, sending the families into meltdown with the stress Santa must deal with.

Frost manipulates Santa into the “Escape Clause”, a series of actions that alters time to undo his career as Santa and effectively leaves the position open, which Frost intends to steal and change Christmas forever. Only with Lucy’s help can Scott unite his family and re-take his place as Santa before it is too late, and Christmas is lost forever…

The gags and general content from the original film back in 1994 have drastically changed over 12 years, and the final chapter shows the signs. With the shortest running time, this has a very thin plot and tired looking performances that don’t really have the passion the original did.

Its breath of ‘cold’ air comes from Martin Short as Jack Frost, one of the newcomers to the films cast, alongside the amusing and cantankerous Alan Arkin, to inject some fun into things. With an over-the-top but suitably creepy turn as our villain, he gurns and grins and sneaks his way along as only Martin Short can; camp and amusing for all the wrong reasons, but hard not to love.

Tim Allen is clearly devoid of new material and does a basic job, with little heart and passion, as a manic, bumbling and often inept Santa Claus; his turn as Scott Calvin is always better as he gets the chance to do a little more than run around looking stressed. But by now there is little real heart and meaning in the film and just focusing on slapstick gags and very thin sentiment.

The effects are a little cleaner and the set design is always improving film after film with the North Pole now a town rather than just a small underground workshop, and it’s cute and cuddly and Christmassy, but everything else is just a little lazy with no real meat to get stuck into.

It just about avoids being as childish as the second, but still comes over as tired and a little lost for ideas, and it certainly wraps up the story of Scott Calvin effectively with a sugar-coated finale that is eye-rolling naff, but still sums up what Christmas is all about when all is said and done.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

Directed by: Michael Lembeck
Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Elizabeth Mitchell, Wendy Crewson, Judge Reinhold, David Krumholtz, Spencer Breslin

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2002 American festive comedy is the sequel to 1994’s ‘The Santa Clause’ and is directed by Michael Lembeck and stars Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Elizabeth Mitchell, Wendy Crewson, Judge Reinhold, David Krumholtz and Spencer Breslin.

Eight years after taking on the role of Santa Claus, Scott Calvin (Allen) is finding it difficult to split time between his North Pole festive duties with elves Bernard (Krumholtz) and Curtis (Breslin), and being a father to Charlie (Lloyd) who is rebelling at school and finds his way onto Santa’s naughty list. To make things worse, Curtis reveals another clause overlooked in the original contract; the Mrs. Clause, in which Santa needs to find a wife before Christmas Day or he will stop being Santa and Christmas will be lost.

To help Santa spend time with his family and try to find a wife, Curtis and Bernard create a clone of Santa out of a plastic toy who takes over the running of the North Pole. Meanwhile, Scott starts to form a bond with Charlie’s principal, Carol Newman (Mitchell) and uses his magic to woo her as the two gradually fall for each other.

But when Toy Santa (Allen) takes the rules of Christmas too literally, he imprisons Bernard, creates an army of toy soldiers and puts every child on the naughty list to receive lumps of coal on Christmas Day. Facing a deadline to convince Carol who he really is and win her hand, Scott must also stop Toy Santa from destroying the magic of Christmas, all before it is too late for everyone…

A worthy sequel to the 1994 original, this time heaping on cartoonish comedy and slapstick, and featuring more fantasy and magic than the first time around. We have the manic, comical mishaps at the North Pole featuring an over-zealous Toy Santa taking over Santa’s workshop coupled with a more heartfelt setting in Chicago as Scott tries to win over a frosty school principal and fix his family.

This film works best with heart, and the segments with Scott and his family trying to repair the stress of keeping a secret like “My Dad is Santa”, and as he has fun with the likeable Elizabeth Mitchell to woo her over, are great to watch. They are witty, but humane and focus on just what you’d want from a Christmas film; heart and family and relationships, sprinkled with discovering the real meaning of Christmas.

It falls flat cut with the North Pole chaos, with an over-acting Tim Allen as a dastardly Toy Santa who takes over the workshop to effectively cancel Christmas. These moments are a little TOO silly with the overall story, and it detracts from the grounding of things. When both stories come together, it provides a few entertaining moments as the elves battle the toy soldiers, and a mini-revolution takes place. The added danger and confrontation to stand it apart from the first is welcome, it’s just handled a little sloppy.

Added with very irritating reindeer who now talk (with a god-awful Jar Jar Binks-esque voice) and fart, this makes me cringe also as it seems to lower the standard set in the first for something a little more stupid, and it doesn’t really need to do that to be effective, as we see in moments here.

Still, it does the job and continues the story with all the main cast returning for a decent sequel that tries its best and offers a good twist on things.

 

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: The Santa Clause (1994)

Directed by: John Pasquin
StarringTim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson and David Krumholtz.

Written by Chris Gelderd

38-year-old Scott Calvin (Allen) is spending Christmas Eve with his young son Charlie (Lloyd), splitting time equally between his ex-wife Laura (Crewson) and her new partner Neil (Reinhold). While the celebration doesn’t go according to plan thanks to Scott’s dismissal of the season, that night they are woken by noise on the roof of their house. Investigating, Scott disturbs Santa Claus, causing him to fall and disappear into thin air, leaving only a set of instructions and the red suit behind.

To satisfy Charlie’s excitement, Scott goes along with wearing the suit and following the instructions which lead to the reindeer and sleigh. Once he takes a seat, Scott is magically whisked away on a journey to deliver presents around the world before he is taken to the North Pole and briefed on the situation by Head Elf Bernard (Krumholtz).

Waking up the next morning and dismissing the events as a dream, Scott starts a transformation over the year where he gradually becomes the new Santa Claus, complete with big round belly and thick beard and white hair. With Charlie trying to help him believe in the magic that has happened, Scott soon discovers the fate of Christmas rests on him accepting his new role and convincing those closest to him that what happened was real before it is too late…

One of the better mainstream Christmas films to come our way, now 20 years old and still retaining that schmaltzy festive magic, but with a decent story that relies on character, heart and humour rather than truckloads of slapstick and cheap visuals.

Tim Allen surfing the peak of this TV and movie career comes across, to me, a little over-confident in his ability as being funnier than he actually is. While the script isn’t awful, it’s not that funny, but Allen gurns and quips and groans over his puns and silly actions that I think he feels is laugh out loud funny, but really it’s a little cheesy. Yet with a decent supporting cast with young Eric Lloyd, the always-passionate Judge Reinhold and likeable David Krumholtz as our Head Elf, Allen is in good company.

With most of the story set in the everyday suburbs, it gives us lots of comical moments which see Allen slowly transform into our new Santa – this is fun to see and watch him and the people around him try to find explanations as to the increase in weight and excessive facial hair, yet also tugs on the heartstrings a little when he is seen as nothing more than a liability and neglectful parent.

With nothing offensive, crude or adult, this is easy festive viewing for all the family with plenty of heart-warming moments that focus on family and relationships, rather than just fantasy and adventure.

The Gang Are Back In The First Teaser For ‘Toy Story 4’

“Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.”

Directed by: Josh Cooley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Tim Allen, Bonnie Hunt

Release Date: 21st June 2019