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Film / Christmas with the Kranks

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A 2004 comedy film based on the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, directed by Joe Roth and scripted by Chris Columbus (Home Alone).

Blair Krank (Julie Gonzalo), the daughter of Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis), departs for a Peace Corps assignment in Peru, where she'll be during the holidays. The Kranks, along with their entire neighborhood, have always made a huge deal of celebrating Christmas with decorations and parties, but after their daughter leaves and they realize they spent over $6,000 last year to celebrate, this year they elect to go on a cruise in the Caribbean instead. They won't be celebrating Christmas this year like they'd always done previously — no decorations, no parties, no gifts, no fiberglass snowman on their roof...

Well, the neighbors aren't pleased about this. More specifically, they're pissed. Even more specifically, they refuse to take no for an answer, bullying the Kranks relentlessly to try forcing them into relenting and celebrating:

  • They scrutinize the Kranks, referring to Luther as "Scrooge".
  • A group of kids threaten to break into their house to steal Frosty and put him on their roof against their will for them...and when they fail, stand on their lawn repeatedly chanting "free Frosty, free Frosty!", additionally ringing them on their phone seven times a day.
  • A group of carolers come to their house every night, peer in their windows, and holler at the top of their lungs for hours.
  • Eventually, even the neighborhood police turn on the Kranks.

In the end, Blair rings and informs them that she's coming home for Christmas with a new fiancé who has never celebrated it before and wants to know what it's like, forcing Luther and Nora to admit to their neighbors that they were "wrong" and "being selfish" they help them scramble a Christmas party together at the last minute. The closing shot is of the two embracing and agreeing that skipping Christmas was a bad idea.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Anti-Grinch: The Kranks' neighbors don't seem meant to be seen this way, but their attempts at badgering the Kranks into their over-the-top version of holiday cheer do succeed in ruining the Kranks' plans for a quiet getaway.
  • Apathetic Clerk: The girl at the front desk of the tanning salon is a bubbly/ditzy version of this trope. After Nora bumps her head and starts bleeding, she finds the girl at the front desk listening to music instead of doing her job. The girl is clearly annoyed when Nora asks for a band-aid. When Nora also asks for a towel to cover herself, she gets frustrated and tells Nora to "Make up your mind!"
  • Artistic License – Religion: Father Zabriskie is a guest at the party at the end. As Roger Ebert noted, Catholic priests don't get Christmas Eve off, since Midnight Mass is a major event in Roman Catholicism.
  • As You Know: Nora reminds Luther that Vic is the "unelected ward boss" of the street.
  • Bit Character: Marty, who no one in the neighborhood knew. He knew them because he was the Santa selling umbrellas in the beginning.
  • Brick Joke: Luther sees two people enjoying a cruise when he makes the decision to skip Christmas. Later, when he and Nora wear bathing suits to get tans, they are the same as the couple in the ad.
  • Broken Aesop: The film waffles between Luther being out of line and Luther being tremendously put upon by his lunatic neighbors before ultimately siding with the neighbors against Luther. This puts it in the odd position of churning out bizarre morals like Christmas culture is stilting and conformist, but it's okay if it's done to please someone else to make it special, or like it's wrong to forego a lonely, empty Christmas for a cruise, but it's okay to give those cruise tickets to neighbors so they can forego their own lonely, empty Christmas.
  • Christmas Carolers: A group of them in Dickensian costumes show up, and are egged on by the neighbors to keep bothering the Kranks. They do not do anything wrong really, but Luther's way of dealing with them, which has Nora get caught up slipping while trying to help them, is a major step in him taking things too far.
  • Clueless Aesop: Luther is a snobby jerk, but a jerk surrounded by lunatics who judge, pressure, and even extort him when the opportunity arises. This makes it very difficult to side against him, but his actions as things go on make it hard to root for him as well.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: The entire plot. The Kranks decide to not celebrate Christmas. They're "wrong" according to their neighbors, who proceed to harass them until they do. The Kranks complain and they only become "more wrong".
  • Contrived Coincidence: Blair's college friend Enrique was on the same assignment as her, leading to them falling in love and getting engaged, and Blair wanting to take him home to show him all their traditions. This happens just as Nora gets on board for the cruise, convincing her to stay and try to make a good Christmas last minute.
    • The Tanning salon scene has someone just so happening to startle Nora, making her hit her head, which causes her to go to the front desk because the clerk has headphones on, which causes her to run into her priest (who was just walking by) in public, which causes her husband in a similar state of undress to come and check on her while she's up at the front desk, which leads to them Bing in the paper and breaking Nora's last straw.
  • Crappy Holidays: Until the finale where everyone gets together to make Blaire's first Christmas with her foreign Fiance special, this is how the movie presents the situation. Almost everyone is trying to make the Kranks conform to the traditions through peer pressure and bullying, but thats only add fuel to the fire of disliking the holiday and escalating a feud.
  • Cringe Comedy: The entire tanning salon scene is about Nora's increasing humiliation.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Mostly toward Nora but the film runs with it for the first 2 acts as it becomes more and more apparent that Christmas is Serious Business in the town:
    • When she tells her usual stationary salesman that she won't be getting Christmas cards, he obsessively follows her into the restaurant to continue their conversation publicly starting a scene about her not celebrating and then staying to sit at a nextdoor table to give her a Death Glare.
    • The neighbors started picketing in their front lawn to make the Kranks give them a Frosty the Snowman roof decoration. The kids go as far as calling them and chanting "Free Frosty," while Vic has people watch their house and cling to Nora's car as she drives away.
    • They make the Kranks front-page news, embarrassing them, blaming them for the street placing fourth in the decorating contest and insulting them anonymously.
    • They make a nuisance of themselves by aggressively caroling and actively surround the Krank household, terrorizing them into their cellar.
    • When they do decide they want to do Christmas and not dissappoint their daughter, it's not much better. One lady pushes Nora onto a rolling shopping cart so she can get the last honeyham, and the scouts extort Luther into overpaying on a tree that has so many needles missing it might as well be a giant twig.
    • It goes in the other direction too, as Luther becomes more and more against Christmas because of their neighbors behavior. He freezes a cat solid, insensitively handles declining the purchase of a tree, and deliberately ices a driveway for the Carolers to slip and fall as a trap.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: It starts snowing during the Christmas Eve party, just as things are picking up. It's also Blair's motivation for bringing Enrique home, as he'd always celebrated in Peru with his family, and she wants to show him her traditions at home.
  • Fan Disservice: The tanning scene gives us the sight of Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis with minimal clothing.
  • Fanservice: On the flip side, the tanning scene gives us the sight of Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis with minimal clothing, both of them looking quite good for their ages.
  • A Friend in Need: Vic comes across as this. While he and Luthor aren't exactly friends, once he finds out what is going on, he wastes no time rallying the neighbors to all pitch in and help out. He even gives marching orders to the police to pick up Blair from the airport so the Kranks can use the time getting everything ready.
    Cop: I don't think we can do that.
    Vic: Shall I call the Chief?
    • Subverted in that Vic rallies the neighbors by saying they're not doing for Luther, but for Blair, who baby-sat most of their kids and is now serving in the Peace Corps, ignoring his own hand in driving the Kranks in the opposite direction of celebrating.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Played straight in the original novel where Blair meets Enrique for the first time on her Peace Corps trip. Averted in the film where it's mentioned she and Enrique were friends in college.
  • The Grinch: What the Kranks are seen as by their neighbors. Multiple scenes make it look like Luther really is one of these, too.
  • Hypocrite: When the Kranks finally cave and and try to set up their Christmas celebrations, all of the neighbors give them a hard time over it, acting like the wounded party after harassing them continuously for weeks. Special mention goes to Vic, who has to talk the community into helping them while calling Luther "a spoiled, selfish little baby."
  • Idiot Ball: Both the crook that the cops pick up near the end of the movie, and the cops themselves. The latter because, instead of driving him down to the station after they drop off Blair and her fiancee, decide to leave the man unattended in their car while they go to the Kranks' party. The former because, even though he manages to escape the car with the help of a gullible kid, decides that instead of just counting his blessings and making a run for it (or even going to one of the dozens of empty houses on the block), he'll just break into the house the policemen are in and steal some things.
  • Imaginary Friend: When Luther's arrested and his "accomplice" runs off, the cops jokingly ask him if he has one.
  • Indecisive Parody: The whole plot. the first two-thirds are a jab against suburban conformity and the commercialization of Christmas while making the protagonist get obsessed with conforming to something that is essentially the opposite experience. at pretty much the last minute, the whole plot turns on its head, celebrating the holiday it was mocking not five minutes ago. Somewhat justified, as the idea to show the positive parts of the Christmas experience that are there, but almost everyone apart from Nora are so excessively horrible or selfish to each other beforehand that it comes off muddled.
  • Jerkass: Luther, as the film goes on, it goes From Bad to Worse, though it is Subverted at first. Luther makes a big deal about skipping Christmas, but only because he thinks it won't be worth it to spend Christmas without his daughter and having him and Nora dwelling on that and be unhappy. He goes into logistics about the price to convince himself and his wife that it is the practical call. His first mistake is his grand letter telling everybody in his office that he won't celebrate Christmas, he is professional and lightly casual in his wording and attitude (the notice is necessary because his family celebrates big) but he goes a bit too far by printing individual letters and being flippant rather than being discreet with an email.
    • Luther insists on a total boycott of all normal Christmas activity, including charitable donations, even if by his own acknowledgement it's a pittance item in the money they spend each year. Nora (and maybe the audience as well) questions him about the apparent awfulness of the deed and has to Death Glare him into taking back that idea.
    • Multiple scenes have him act like, rather than the neighbors being unrelentingly annoying, he has a very literal beef with Christmas itself. It's implied that it's his previous Christmas celebrations plus wanting to spite everyone for trying to force the issue is why.
    • Many of the neighbors qualify. To provide an example: Vic's grand speech to rally all of the neighbors together and help the Kranks? "Why let the daughter suffer for the sins of the father?" His speech also accuses Luther of being "spoiled" and "selfish", when it's the neighbors who have been harassing them all month into conforming for their own image.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Pretty much the whole reason the movie falls apart. Yes, Christmas is obviously a big deal in this community, but Luther and Nora are quite right in pointing out that they spend over $6,000 on it every year, largely to make their daughter happy—and now that she's gone, there's no need to put in that much cash for something they don't really want or need to do.
    • Luther is upset that he and Nora couldn't make the Cruise, but suggests to Nora they could still make it now that they're having their big party, and could give Clair and Enrique time together at their hometown. While Nora rightfully calls him out for obsessing after everyone helped them in spite of the whole feud and his daughter flew back to be with them, he's not wrong to try and compromise. He bought the trip with no insurance, so he can't refund it, Clair and her fiance are already doing the celebrating and might like some time alone together, and the neighbors that have been horrible to them are now getting their way by pure coincidence.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Luther Krank spends most of the film being a cranky bastard who lets his own pride get out of hand. At one point he's even compared to The Grinch himself.
    • Nora can mean "light," she is for the most part the most moral character in the movie. Not wanting to be miserable on Christmas, but also doing nice things for the community and trying to enjoy what she can..
    • Blair means "Meadow" in Scottish Gaelic, and it fits for a Granola Girl volunteering to help contries overseas.
  • Mickey Mousing: Luther calculates his family's Christmas bill in time with the score of The Typewriter comedy routine.
  • Mood Whiplash: One of the many criticisms of the film is how it swings wildly between clashing tones without any effort put in on the parts of the filmmakers to make it a smoother transition. It frequently bounces between the Cringe Comedy of the Kranks' domestic interactions, the downright disturbing conformist antics of the other townspeople, and the cancer diagnosis of Kranks' neighbor Bev played for sympathy.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Or rather, overdramatic; Nora's search for a hickory ham, and subsequent loss of it.
  • The Needs of the Many: The neighbors want the Kranks to conform, at least on the topic of exterior decorations, in order to have their whole block win a prize.
  • Nice Girl: Blair is as good a girl as you can get, her standing with the other families is so good that it's what helps convince the neighbors to help with the last minute prep.
    • Nora is ultimately this as well. She goes along with Luther's plans because, well, it just seems like a good call given the situation. She still gives back and supports the community with her fiends and on her own time if she can, she has a better relationship with the neighbors in general, and she even has a sense of humor about commando crawling around the house and the seemingly flirty gift of a swimsuit for the cruise. However, Good Is Not Soft, because she stands her ground on her decision, and she really loses her temper thrice for good reason (when her neighbors anonymously insult her through the newspaper, when Luther takes his feuding too far with a frozen walkway to get the Carolers to go away, and when chewing Luther out about being ungrateful to everyone for helping them when they needed it).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Blair thinks she's giving her parents a wonderful surprise by coming home for Christmas unannounced with her fiance in tow. Oh, how very, very, VERY wrong she is.
  • No More for Me: When Blair comes home, Ned gets left on the roof with Frosty and calls for help. Luther notices this but thinks Frosty is talking to him and throws his wine glass away.
  • Obsessively Normal: When Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip celebrating Christmas in favor of going on a cruise. The entire neighborhood stalks, harasses and pickets the two over it, judging them every chance they get and even posting it in the local newspaper, especially over the neighborhood's custom Frosty the Snowman figure. It is not until they decide to put their decorations up to celebrate their daughter returning from the Peace Corps do, they start acting civil towards them.
  • Over-the-Top Christmas Decorations: Part of the plot is the Kranks' refusal to take part in this over-the-top decorating, causing their neighbourhood to lose the annual "Best Decorated Street" award.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The plot of the third act could have been avoided had Luther and Nora told Clair about their plan to take a cruise. Granted, it was a rather sudden decision, but they had at least three weeks to let her know.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nora's one against Luther is likely the cause of his Heel Realization near the end of the movie.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Well. Somewhat. At one point Vic says all they want is for Nora to give them Frosty to put up. He even offers to install it for them as long as she just hands the decoration out to them. It's a perfectly reasonable request...that's stymied by the fact that he asked this after they started to harass her to the point of making her hide in her bedroom.
  • Santa Clausmas:
    • Excepting a couple appearances by a Catholic priest who isn't officiating Midnight Mass, there's no indication at all in the story that Christmas just might have any religious component to it.
    • Roger Ebert noted in his review that none of the houses have crucifixes or nativities on their front yards, which is somewhat expected in a typical suburban neighborhood. Ebert suspected that showing even the slight implication of religious people forcing their views on other people's throats in the movie would offend conservative Christian groups, so the filmmakers decided to play it safe and have every house display secular decorations. Ebert wrote in a later Q&A that these same religious groups endorsed the film, which he found both ironic and (given the movie's premise) disturbing.
  • Saving Christmas: Well, for a given value of saving, the last act is about Salvaging the situation for Claire's sake.
  • The Scrooge: While the rest of the community accuses Luther and Nora of being this out of sheer spite, they may be onto something with Luther. While it's nice to give your wife a nice cruise vacation, Luther makes great emphasis in the part that it is a cheaper option than their typical Christmas outings, and Nora notably has to Death Glare Luther into submission when he refuses to part with the money for their typical Christmas donation to charity (which is a pittance item in their holiday spending, as Luther makes clear), insisting that his plan is "all or nothing".
  • Serious Business: Christmas is this to the neighbors because the Kranks' decision not to decorate their home will jeopardize the neighbors' chances of winning the coveted prize for best decorated block in the neighborhood. Basically, ego and pride are the only reasons the Kranks are being harassed.
  • Space Whale Aesop: A strange case, cause there is a normal aesop at base level - Christmas is ultimately about putting aside feuding and working together for the people you love, and by doing so, you can enjoy peoples company and think about them a little more too. The way events go down however has a more in your face and weird one - If you overcome your hatred of the holidays and join in with the Christmas celebrations like everyone else on your block, the real genuine Santa Claus will save you from being killed by a burglar.
  • Stepford Suburbia: In which celebrating Christmas is apparently mandatory and refusing to participate in it will result in the entire neighborhood obsessively following you around and badgering you to give in like some kind of jolly yuletide Orwellian dystopia. The fact that the film tries pinning the Kranks as the one in the wrong just puts up a whole new horrifying set of implications.
  • Take That, Audience!: This movie is a Christmas comedy where the people who regularly enjoy celebrating Christmas are depicted a bunch of lunatic Hate Sinks.
  • Title Drop: Averted; there are various scenes that title drop the book it's based on, Skipping Christmas, but none for the film's official title.
  • The Unfair Sex: Nora zigzags between being entirely unreasonable (when the movie wants to depict Luther as sympathetic) and an innocent getting pushed back and forth (when the movie has Luther push her further into his cruise preparations or when it has the neighbors harass her). All blame for the cruise is ultimately assigned to Luther, by her.
Luther: Five minutes ago, I was a genius.
Nora: Yeah, well, now you're an idiot.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Even after Luther has caved in and he asked to get the house decorated, the neighbours first make claim they are only doing it for his daughter and in spite of how supposedly selfish he was the whole time, despite how damn vehement they were to do so throughout the entire film.
    • Since they already lost the contest, coming in a distant fourth due to the dark Krank house, they had no reason to decorate the house otherwise. The kids were pestering Luther just to bust on him.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: The Kranks' decision to go on a cruise ends up on the front page of the local paper.