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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. However, with the neighbors, and seemingly the universe itself pushing for them to partake in the holiday, can the couple pull through until their departure?

This film provides examples of:

  • Antics-Enabling Wife: Nora Krank goes by her husband Luther's decision to skip Christmas. His plans cause everyone in town to turn against them. Despite being smarter than Luther, she has no other option but to stay on his good side even if it means getting humiliated.
  • 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: While in real life, Catholic priests would spend Christmas Eve overseeing Midnight Mass, in the film, Father Zabriskie is a guest at the Christmas Eve party.
  • 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.
  • Christmas Carolers: One way in which the neighbors try to drag the Kranks into celebrating Christmas is by having a group of carolers in Dickensian costumes sing at their doorsteps with no sign of leaving easily.
  • 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 accidentally enter Nora’s room and startle her, making her hit her head. When she goes to the front desk for help, her priest and a group from their community notices her while passing by. Her husband (in a similar state of undress) then comes by to check on her while she's up at the front desk, which leads to them being in the paper and breaking Nora's last straw.
    • During the final act of the film, the cops sent to escort Blair to the party are told to stall, and do so under the pretense of looking for crime. They stop in the exact part of town where a crime is being committed.
  • Crappy Holidays: Until the finale where everyone gets together to make Blaire's first Christmas with her Peruvian fiancé 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 that's 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.
  • 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: While the Kranks don't hate Christmas per se, their refusal to participate in the festivities, especially with Luther doubling down when pressed, makes them come across as such in-universe.
  • Hypocrite: When the Kranks finally cave 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: 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 really 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 Blair 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, Blair and her fiancé 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Even if Luther was a pretty big Jerkass about skipping Christmas, Vic and the rest of their Stepford neighbors face absolutely no consequences for demonizing him and Nora, even after they finally bully the Kranks into joining their Orwellian traditions, all because their refusal to celebrate caused them to lose a neighborhood display contest.
  • 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 countries overseas.
  • Mickey Mousing: Luther calculates his family's Christmas bill in time with the score of "The Typewriter" comedy routine by Leroy Anderson.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Saving Christmas: Well, for a given value of saving, the last act is about salvaging the situation for Blair'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.
  • Small-Town Tyrant: Vic Frohmyer, the "unelected ward boss" of the entire neighborhood. A man described as living and breathing for his neighborhood, Vic is shown to have near absolute control over everything that happens on Hemlock street, utilizing the neighbors under his power to emotionally manipulate them into joining their Stepford Christmas, and even continuing the abuse after they cave as petty revenge for Luther's refusal to conform costing the neighborhood residents first place in a display contest. The ending of the film shows that even the police who guard the neighborhood are under his control, and he, much like the rest of the neighbors, gets off scot free for putting the Kranks through absolute hell for his own needs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Blair loves Hickory Honey Ham.
  • 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.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: The Kranks' decision to go on a cruise ends up on the front page of the local paper.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: It's twice mentioned that Blair has been gone for six weeks. However, she leaves on Black Friday and returns on Christmas Eve. The distance between the two holidays ranges from 26 to 32 days.