CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS Praying for Baby Jesus to come down and kill them.

Christmas with the Kranks
dir. Roth
Now Playing
Various Theaters

Tim Allen's career is starting to revolve solely around making family friendly Christmas movies. This year's offering, Christmas with the Kranks, has a nuclear family (Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) deciding that since their daughter will be serving in the Peace Corps in South America this year, they'll skip Christmas and take a cruise. (Apparently, for the Wal-Mart/Oprah crowd, this is a shocking, gasp-inducing decision.) But predictably enough, their daughter (Julie Gonzalo) decides to return at the last minute with her new fiancé, causing the Kranks to nix the cruise and tailspin into creating a Christmas miracle.

The first third of the film is spent setting up "bah humbug" gags for Tim and Jamie Lee. If you've watched the trailer, you've already seen these a few times: Tim gets Botoxed. Tim gets over-tanned. Tim waters down the sidewalk in front of his home, causing the mail carrier to hilariously slip on the ice. And the second third of the film offers more of the same, with the gags aimed at last-minute Christmas prep: Tim falls off the roof. Jamie Lee races a lady in the store for the last ham. That's game, set, and match, leaving the climax clear for the obligatory touching Christmas message.

While it might seem like it while watching Kranks, it isn't impossible to make a good Christmas movie. Besides the classics--Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life--successes have been made with A Christmas Story, Will Ferrell's Elf, and even this year's The Polar Express. But Kranks is nothing more than a poorly made distraction from holiday chaos, and a faulty one at that. By the film's very concept, the viewer is constantly reminded of the inevitability of their own holiday obligations. If you're swamped with a suicide-inducing list of stuff to do for the holidays, chances are you're already busy as hell. Let me lighten up your load a bit: Save some time and pain by not paying eight dollars to watch yet another Tim Allen Christmas movie.