Tim Allen for “Christmas with the Kranks”

Tim Allen doesn’t especially enjoy talking to the print media, yet in a New York hotel, armed with a small video camera, Allen is nevertheless civil, while trying to figure out how to use his camera to record probing journalists. “It’s for my web site.,Timallen.com, and believe it or not, I actually had to fight somebody to get that back,” he exclaims, with a sense of mock indignation.

Now Allen is back on then big screen in yet another Xmas movie. Clearly prepared to be asked the obvious: what is it about him and Christmas movies, Allen growls a response. “Oh, I don’t know. Why did you have to ask me that” The movie in question is the family comedy Christmas with the Kranks. The film, which in part satirizes American middle-class suburbia, supports the notion that in the thick of suburbia, where houses are tree lined and neighbours scour to decorate houses with all things Christmassy, that perhaps there could be a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, corny office parties, fruitcakes or unwanted presents.

That’s just what Luther (Allen) and Nora Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis) have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether, despite the fact that they’re usually the most fanatical about it. They might as well, since it won’t be the same without their daughter, who’s away, which means theirs will be the only house on without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. But when their daughter surprises THEM by cutting her trip short and returning home for Christmas, there’s a mad scramble to prepare themselves to have the traditional Christmas fanfare on extremely short notice, despite having already upset their neighbours.

Allen says that he wasn’t necessarily after another holiday film, following the successes of his Santa Clause franchise. “Well, this would not have been my first pick to do a Christmas movie, Allen confesses. “Because I didn’t want to add any fuel or kindling to the fire that Christmas is what I do, as it’s dangerous in this business to get in a rut or a groove, depending on your point of view.”

For Allen; who is an old hand at the kind of both physical and stand up comedy exemplified in Kranks, comedy may be tough to some, but for the likes of Allen. “I think for veteran actors, it probably scares them like anybody else. If you’ve been doing stand-up most of your life, it comes very easy to me. What didn’t come easy was that the turn on this movie was pretty dramatic for me.,” referring to a key moment that occurs towards the end of the film.” In that context, one wonders whether Allen finds it challenging to find a part where he gets an actor role, rather than be a comedian who acts. “What I generally here is that there are plenty of people who could be murderers. What we don’t have are enough people who can make us laugh, so why do we want to take the people who make us laugh and turn them into murderers. There are a lot of different opinions. Marty Short once told me: you signed a contract with people to be funny; and now you’re reneging on that contract.”

So Allen is merely looking, he says, at material which will stretch him comedically, and he hopes that his continued deal at Disney will do just that. “What’s happened is, that I wrote two scripts actually. I can make really lame stuff pretty substantial and so one of my jobs at Disney under my deal is to find projects sometimes out of their own storehouse. I go through their stuff and some of which is really good, conceptually, but if you look at the original Shaggy Dog, it’s kind of stupid. So Matt: Carroll and upgraded it and made it smart. If you actually were a dog, and dogs can’t talk, in this movie dogs don’t talk, dogs can’t drive cars, eat hamburgers, cause they can’t. This is a man that thinks he’s a dog, and dumb as it sounds, we made it so he’s struggling through the entire movie to let his family know that everything’s okay, its me. So I go back and forth.” In addition to Shaggy Dog, Allen says “I’ve been able to edit scripts, which I like to do, and there’s several, whether they like it or not, one of them I’ll have to direct because I do want that experience of the final say in how the edit goes. I’m learning where the art is in these. And I think the editing and the lighting and all that stuff.”

Meanwhile, he’s here in the Big Apple working on Shaggy Dog and says he’s having a great time. “It’s fabulous. it’s really a huge comedy, with me as a dog, but mostly when I’m a man, I have dog qualities, which means when I get angry, I bark at people .and I cant control myself. But I don’t change till the middle of the movie and then sometimes I change like this, so I’ll be human into dog immediately. It’s got a neat undercurrent which I like to do. A story like Home Improvement, which is good enough for adults.” As for the rumour that there will be a third Toy Story, with or without Pixar, Allen remains on the fence as to whether he would do it. “I am just a hired gun. I love Pixar, Apple and Disney. First thing, if the script’s there and I get hired, that’s when I make the judgment, not the company that’s doing it. But the big picture is I wouldn’t put that marriage out as yet. I’m not sure that that deals done, so my personal opinion is that Pixar and Disney haven’t completely exhausted all the potential. I don’t know that things wont change.”