Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

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“Not Frohmeyer – he’s like the unelected war boss of the neighborhood!” – Nora Krank

Christmas, to me, isn’t about amazing movies. Classics are one thing. Christmas movies become classics because they ARE the good, amazing movies. But in reality, I’m not looking for much in an enjoyable Christmas or holiday movie: It has to be uplifting, fun, funny (although this is optional) and captures the spirit of Christmas about togetherness, forgiveness, etc.

I’m starting this review this way because Christmas with the Kranks is such a movie. By no means is it a “good” movie; it’s not destined to become a classic, but that’s ok. Instead, it’s harmless fun that I think is hilarious, but still manages to uphold the ideals that I believe a Christmas movie should.

This movie is based on a book called Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. It tells the story of Luther and Nora Krank, a married couple, who, because their daughter Blair is out of the country around the holidays, decide to skip Christmas and instead go on a cruise.

It’s a simple enough plot. First Nora isn’t so sure she’s on board with her husband’s idea because it means they are essentially boycotting everything Christmas: no cards, no tree, no donations, no nothing that they have ever done with Christmas. She agrees, however, because it turns out that they will actually save money going on a cruise.

The neighborhood gets into a tizzy when the Kranks don’t buy their Christmas tree, when they don’t put up decorations, and when they don’t plan to have their Christmas Eve party. They put up with it because they will be gone on a cruise. But (plot twist!) their daughter calls on the 23rd, and guess what? she’ll be home for Christmas and expecting a party! And mom doesn’t tell her they’re not having it! Will they be able to pull off a Christmas Miracle in only 24 hours?

A big big big reason I like this movie is because of who is in it. Tim Allen is Luther, and Jamie Lee Curtis is Nora. I really enjoy both of them in their rolls, even if they are complete opposites in this story. Luther is very strict and adamant about no christmas frivolities, almost to the point where he seems insane about this cruise. We get the idea that the reason they’re so into christmas other years isn’t because of him, it’s because of his wife. Jamie Lee Curtis is remarkable in this movie. She’s anxious and scared and you can tell she wants to enjoy all that the Christmas season has to offer, but because of her deal with her husband she is stuck trying to get out of it all (typically that means just running away or hiding in her case).

I was told to be kind, but Nora reminds me a bit of my mother (and my father agrees). Not in a bad way. Not even in the way that Nora can be insanely into Christmas. It’s just some of the reactions she has and some of the ways she acts. Her daughter calls from South America and suddenly it doesn’t matter what she and Luther were arguing about: her daughter is now the most important thing in her life. I can’t really explain it, but to me this movie will always and forever remind me of my mother and some of her mannerisms.

This movie is set in small town USA, and I have to say that whatever small town this is, everyone seems to know each other and this must be the most Christmas obsessed neighborhood/town in America. I really want to know if a place like this exists, because as someone who loves to decorate for Christmas, I want to find a place where neighbors will hunt you down for not putting up lights or buying a tree. In some ways it’s sad because well, technically speaking there are lots of other holidays, but this is a Christmas movie, so I’m not going to get into politically correct or not.

The other neighbors in the Kranks’ neighborhood are part of what makes this movie so hilarious. You have an older couple across the street with a cat that hates Luther (and the wife is suffering from cancer – this is where we get some of our heartfelt ending). You have Frohmeyer, played by Dan Aykroyd. He’s the unofficial war lord of the neighborhood (nora’s words) and crazy christmas man who gets the most upset when he finds out the Kranks are skipping Christmas. His son Spike takes to the phones and the streets when they refuse to put up their frosty the snowman on their roof, making calls exclaiming “free frosty!” We also get to know some other neighbors and a few cops.

The first 3/4 of the movie is the neighborhood antics and everyone getting really annoyed with the Kranks and how the Kranks deal with the neighbors and get out of all their Christmas stuff. Once they figure out Blair is coming home (with a boy who is now her fiancé), it turns into frantic-ness trying to give Blair the Christmas she’s used to. This is where the heart comes out in this movie. The neighbors end up doing anything and everything to help the Kranks pull off a Christmas party, giving them food, their trees, helping them put up decorations and frosty, etc. Because isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

It’s never going to win any awards, but I simply adore Christmas with the Kranks. To me it’s a hilarious comedy that has just enough heart to keep it going. And the acting for a Christmas movie in my opinion is great (my husband, btw, hates this movie. I really think you either swing one way or the other…)

I give Christmas with the Kranks a 3.5 out of 5. Love it, and it’s one I watch every year.

Tomorrow I’m ending this years Christmas movies with a classic: White Christmas (1954). I own many more Christmas movies, but this month just flew by and I didn’t have enough time to watch or write about them. We’ll save them for next year

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