Christmas with Kranks and Wednesday Journal

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By Dan Haley

I'm no movie critic. But I know what I like. And when a major motion picture, even a not-great major motion picture, gives two minutes of exposure to WEDNESDAY JOURNAL's logo, well, I'm predisposed to overlook shortcomings in plot, dialogue, more shortcomings in plot, and, in general, a deficit in enjoyableness.

But by all means, head to the show to see Christmas With the Kranks. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll hug your kids tighter. Indeed, you will find the true meaning of Christmas.

And about a third of the way through the picture you'll see a doctored up version of our newspaper. This comes about through a plot contrivance, a genuinely pivotal plot contrivance, which would take too many words here to set up properly. Besides, I don't want to give up too much of what passes here for a plot, wouldn't want to spoil your night out.

Suffice it to say that first you see Tim Allen, one of the movie stars in the film, (yes, the guy from that TV show) holding up the paper. This homage to small town newspapers starts with the back page of the JOURNAL, a legit sports page from last spring as near as I could tell. Then they start panning (genuine movie lingo) up the front page until, slowly, teasingly, the JOURNAL flag (genuine newspaper lingo) comes bursting forth on the screen. And even though Tim Allen is by now a deep orange color due to a tanning bed mishap, (you had to be there to really laugh out loud), the warm Kelly green of the JOURNAL nameplate just steals the scene. Sorry, Tim.

How did this happen? And why haven't we previewed this for you? Well, honestly, we had no idea we were in pictures until Monday afternoon. That is when a colleague here at the paper got a call from the head of a newspaper organization we belong to who said, "Did you know you're in that movie about the Kranks?" Well, no we didn't.

Of course, I rushed out with my family to see the movie at 5:15 on Monday (Cinemark in Melrose Park, Screen 10) when I should have been editing the editorials. (We said what about the village president?!) Surprisingly, the theater was not full. But the 10 people who did join us seemed to enjoy the film, and I sensed, especially the WEDNESDAY JOURNAL scenes.

Honestly, though, I have to admit that any newspaper might have filled the bill in this movie. So why not a generic prop master-created Riverside Times? Did I mention the movie is set in Chicago and purportedly in lovely Riverside? Well it didn't look like Riverside, and I do not believe that Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis or any of the other "talent" visited our city.

The answer, perhaps, is the movie was produced and the screenplay written by Chris Columbus. He is, according to the Kranks website, a "major force in contemporary Hollywood filmmaking." Hard to argue since he has been either the screenwriter, director or producer of everything from the 1980s Gremlins to the 1990s Home Alone movies, and, more recently, the Harry Potter series. More to the point, he either does, or did, live part-time in River Forest. That would make WEDNESDAY JOURNAL his hometown paper.

While this movie is no Harry Potter or even Mrs. Doubtfire, I'd be fibbing to say it wasn't pretty cool to see our paper on the silver screen. And I'm not cool enough to deny it. Did I mention there is a second scene where Tim Allen shows WEDNESDAY JOURNAL to his neighbor?

Anyhow, that's our star turn. Now we'll be entering rehab and kibitzing with John Tesh on Entertainment Tonight while we wait for further scripts to roll in.

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