Ah, Christmas! I love watching the great holiday movies thistime of year. The Santa Clause, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th St, Christmas withthe Kranks…..

Wait…what?

Christmas with the Kranks? Really?

Well, yeah. Really. Why is this on my must see list everyyear? Glad you asked! Let’s take a closer look.

 

Christmas with the Kranks is based on the John Grisham book”Skipping Christmas”. I never read the book but have heard that itwas a decent read. A lot better than this so-called adaption. The premise issimple enough. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Krank and when their daughter Blair leaves to go to the peace corps, Luther decides thatfor once they will skip Christmas and go on a cruise.  Nora is excited about this idea (at first). Sounds simple enough, so what’s the conflict?

There are two. The first is the fact that The Krank’s livein a police state where they have to conform. Yes I am kidding, but not by asmuch as you think. They do live in a very close knit neighborhood where everyone knows each other and decorating is a neighborhood tradition. Now I can accept that their friends and neighbors may be disappointed about the Krank’s decision but the way this is written and performed makes the film go right intothe unbelievable category.

Let me explain by describing this quick scene. Nora runsinto the gentleman who she normally orders her Christmas cards from. She informs him that they will not be ordering any cards this year. Why they can’t at least do cards is another argument, but the point is that after Nora informsthe guy of this he is seething with anger. He then follows her into arestaurant and tells people about this horrible turn of events.  If this were me I would never order cardsfrom this man again. What business is it of him anyway? But this is the wholesetup for the first part of the movie. Neighbors, friends, and whoever elsejust appalled that they dare to go away rather than celebrate Christmas.

It actually gets worst to. The neighbors start protesting especially when The Krank’s refuse to put up a silly Christmas decoration (thatthey already own so it costs them nothing and which the neighbors offer to putup for them). We see Luther upsetting the local boy scouts, police department,and even the priest when he catches them at the mall in a tanning booth. Andwhen some carolers arrive they are stunned to see the one undecorated house,and proceed to trespass and stalk the place singing.

Now if you read thebook this was based on there is a reason for this, sort of. Two simple words that would have made this movie much more believable: DECORATING CONTEST! In thebook the Krank’s not decorating jeopardizes a neighborhood contest, why thiswould ever be left of the narrative for the movie baffles me. It wouldn’texcuse the neighbor’s actions but it would at least explain it.

Of course the crazy stuff isn’t confined to the neighbors.Luther and Nora do some over the top things to. The dumbest moment has to bethe scene where the neighbors are chanting outside their door and Nora panics as if they are standing out there with grenade guns or something.  We get the contrived tanning booth scene, and a Botox gag that may have been funny if the film were a few years older. Andremember those pesky carolers? Luther decides icing the walkway is the best wayto get rid of them. Ah, the hilarity of watching people fall and kill themselveson ice.

It is preposterous.  It is totally ridiculous and unbelievable. Andthat is how I think one has to approach this film. As a farce, something whichonly marginally has any basis in what we know as reality. If you can acceptthat nothing in this film is meant to be taken seriously, then you can buy the events we get.

The second conflict comes when we arrive at Christmas Eve.They have survived the anger of the neighbors and are getting ready for thetrip. Until the phone rings. Blair calls to say that she is coming home forChristmas, and on top of that she is bringing her new fiancée with her. Not sure what why she is in such a hurry to get married, and going so far as tohave her engaged seems a tad unnecessary (also as a commenter pointed out inFilm Brain’s review of this, what daughter would announce her engagement to her parents that way?), but this leads into the second part of the movie. Theannual party is suddenly on and Blair is to never know about their plans to goon a cruise. Why? She wasn’t coming home at all what difference would it make if they told her that they had canceled the party? Not sure what they areprotecting her from, but it doesn’t matter because we have hijinks!

In a panic to get a party thrown together at the last minuteNora races out to buy a ham while Luther is supposed to get a tree. I am notsure if those two things would be the first problem I would address, but it’scool because we get two totally pointless scenes of slapstick fun as Nora triesto acquire the ham while Luther attempts to borrow a neighbor’s tree. These scenes are just silly, especially the ham nonsense.  I will give this movie credit for one smallthing, when Nora tries inviting people to the party she finds out, shockingly,that no one is free and everyone they know has plans.WOW!  So this is when they go to the neighbor’s, right? Nah we get more hijinks as Luther tries to put thefrosty up all by himself and almost gets himself killed for his efforts.

Finally the neighbors become aware of the problem and agreeto help. Remember the credit I gave this movie? I take it back now. NONE OFTHESE NEIGHBORS HAVE PLANS????? Guess not since they all drop what they are doing to chip in including a lady cooking two turkey’s for no apparent reason.Now in order to make this premise work they had to make Luther into a huge jerkat this point so that we would side with the neighbors. Well, try as hard asyou want I still remember how these “wonderful” neighbors harassedthe Kranks for daring to not do what they were expected to do. Many argue thatthe fact these neighbors got their way is what spoils the movie and I can seethat. They try to make it clear they are doing this for Blair, but still in theend The Krank’s buckled under and conformed when the message should be to never be afraid to do what you want.  So theneighbors chip in and manage to do work which would take at least a day in justa few hours.

I have to admit, the movie starts to lose me after thispoint. Before this I could find the humor in the absurdity of the premise, but now it starts to get silly. First, two cops are sent to pick Blair up which isjust all sorts of stupid. Second, everyone who has been in the movie appears atthe party. This includes the priest (what else would he have to do on ChristmasEve?), the girl at the tanning booth (who knew she was a neighbor), and ofcourse the carolers which makes no sense since it was clear they had no ideawho the Krank’s even were! Finally, the cops have to stall so they pretend tobe on the case of a criminal. That is until the stumble onto an actualcriminal. For some reason we get this stupid plot point about a criminal whichbasically goes nowhere.
And of course we get more Luther as a jerk because wehave to hate him by now, even though before this scene we didn’t really have areason to. All he wanted to do was go on a vacation…evil! Why is his ideaabout going on the cruise and letting Blair and her fiancée have the house to themselves such a bad one anyway? It’s not as if they have presents for eachother the next morning, so what’s the difference? I think another flaw in the film is presetning Blair as a very strong willed, confident adult who could probably handle the situation if her parents were just honest with her!!

Yes I am neglecting story #45 about the man named Marty thatno one knows. That is so dumb and tacked on I am not even going to discuss it.So let’s get to the sweet ending which involves two characters I have notmentioned. One of the many story threads involves two neighbors, one of whomhappens to have cancer. Luther ends up giving away the tickets to the cruise tothe neighbor so they can have a getaway. He even agrees to watch the cat who hehates.  This scene is as sappy aspossible to drive home that this is what the film was supposed to be all about.Ok, got it. Then the movie ends with Nora and Luther embracing and realizinghow stupid it was to think about skipping Christmas and doing what they wantedfor a change. It should have ended with the neighbors apologizing for being such jerks and seeing them off on their cruise, but who am I to question the writers?

One positive thing I will say for this movie, it has a heck of a soundtrack. So that’s Christmas with the Kranks. I know John Grishamwrote the original book but I wonder what he was thinking. This film makes youthink that Christmas is all about decorating your house, whether you like it ornot! Yeah I can see how that could be wrong. Despite the ridiculous premise,idiotic writing, and over the top acting…I still like this movie. I wish Icould explain why. I get the criticism and the problems with it, I really do,but I still like it. I guess we all have to have one guilty pleasure, and atChristmas this is mine. Could be worst, it could have been Deck The Halls (yech!!)

So that’s mine, what’s yours?

By richb

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