I approached “Christmas with the Kranks” with a bit of loathing. It got enough votes to break into my readers’ top 10, but I had no interest to see this film when it came out and none now.
The title was the only thing I knew. When I saw Tim Allen appear as Luther Krank I was pleasantly surprised. And then Jamie Lee Curtis appeared as his wife Nora. I settled in thinking that this might be a bit better than I had expected.
Our tale begins with Luther and Nora’s only daughter heading off to Peru with the Peace Corps. just after Thanksgiving. Nora is heartbroken. She can’t even begin to think how she will make it through the holidays—her favorite time of year—without her only child. In the next couple of days she heads into a funk.
Luther hits a funk himself upon realizing they had spent over $6000 the year before on Christmas. So he hatches a plan. What if they leave dreary Chicago and head off to the Caribbean for a 10 day cruise and skip Christmas entirely? He points out that it would be only half the cost. Nora agrees, albeit a bit reluctantly.
So they begin putting this plan into action. This means no meaningless gifts for co-workers and asking them to do the same. It means no $90 Christmas Trees from the boy scouts (although might they have considered a small donation?).
And it means no Frosty on the roof to the ire of the rest of the neighborhood whose first place finish in the local decorations contest will be in jeopardy.
The neighborhood holds sway. Once they hear of the Kranks’ desire to “skip Christmas,” they begin laying in on them. Luther holds his own for the most part. Nora begins to crumble.
The neighbors become a bit antagonistic, including the one across the street who is Luther’s nemesis, and who allows a local newspaper to get on his roof to snap a picture of the unlit house of the Kranks. Dan Aykroyd and Cheech Marin join in as well. As does the local priest, adding a level of guilt when the Kranks aren’t at the mall to buy Christmas presents but to get a tan.
What surprised me most was the antagonism thrown at the Kranks for not buying presents, as if there wasn’t a greater sin. Yes, they could have done more for charity — they cut all donations at Christmas too — but not being materialistic and getting out of control seemed like a good thing to me. Surely not buying cheap perfume from Wal*Mart would be a positive (but alas, someone complains and shows it’s a disappointment).
The film leads to a somewhat surprising end which clearly shows the true meaning of Christmas in my eyes. A meal where those invited can’t come and so invitations fly out to whomever also has a biblical ring (I don’t want to say more than this). However, when the plot turns to Christmas Eve and the priest makes another appearance, I had to laugh. No clergy person is ever free on Christmas Eve!
“Christmas with the Kranks” pleasantly surprised me. The humor wasn’t crude, and the message rang true. I’m giving it:
I’ll be more than happy to watch this one again in the years to come.
Next in the dvd player: “Prancer.”