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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 fiancée 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, 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: It is so wrong to go on a cruise for Christmas... Unless you're dying of cancer.
  • Christmas Carolers: The ones who keep bothering them.
  • 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".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Nora tells her friends that they are not celebrating Christmas this year immediately sucks the air out of the room, all of the restaurant patrons giving her an ugly stare. This goes on for the rest of the film, the neighbors constantly harassing them, pickets in their front lawn, they even make the front page news. When the Kranks cave and try putting decorations up, the neighbors make it as hard as possible to accomplish this, even going so far as to have Luther arrested when he helps the tree-salesmen with their job under the assumption that he was stealing it.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas
  • 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?
    • Also, 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.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Blair leaves home right after Thanksgiving and is engaged by Christmas Eve.
    • Although she mentioned knowing Enrique in college and Luther accuses her of joining the Peace Corps to "shack up with 'Ricky' in the jungle."
  • 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."
  • Imaginary Friend: When Luther's arrested and his "accomplice" runs off, the cops jokingly ask him if he has one.
  • Indecisive Parody: The whole damn plot. The first two-thirds are a jab against suburban conformity and the commercialization of Christmas, which would've made for a pretty good (if somewhat dark) film...if, at pretty much the last minute, the whole plot didn't turn on its head so it not only celebrated the aspects it was mocking not five minutes ago, but very firmly chided the notion of working against them at all.
  • Jerkass:
    • Luther seems to be one just for the sake of it. To provide examples:
    1. He makes a grand letter telling everybody in his office that he won't celebrate Christmas, don't expect gifts and don't give him any, and instead of sending it by e-mail he prints enough copies for every single worker and hands them personally.
    2. He tries to convince Nora to not give their yearly donation to Christmas charity, even if by his own acknowledgement it's a pittance item in the money they spend each year and Nora (and maybe the audience) question him about how the apparent awfulness of the deed. Nora has to Death Glare him into taking back that idea.
    3. Multiple scenes have him act like, more than the neighbors being unrelentingly annoying, he has a very literal beef with Christmas itself.
    • 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 her parents?"
  • 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 to do.
  • Meaningful Name: Luther Krank spends most of the film being a cranky bastard.
  • 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 all the weepy sympathy-wringing of your average Lifetime channel movie.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Or rather, overexaggerated; Nora's search for a hickory ham.
  • 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 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, and its myriad problems, could have been avoided had Luther and Nora told Blair 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.
  • Santa Clausmas: There's no indication at all in the story that Christmas just might have any religious component to it.
    • Save the scene at the tanning salon where the family priest acknowledges their non-participation in the Christmas holiday festivities.
    • In Roger Ebert's review, he noted 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 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: 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.
  • 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: Played with. While skipping Christmas was Luther's idea, Nora willingly and eagerly goes along with it. In one scene she discusses their plan and puts all the blame on Luther and again when they learn their daughter is coming home with a fiance. Also, throughout the movie, Luther receives far more ridicule and scorn than Nora for skipping Christmas, even though she willingly joined his plan.
  • 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.


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