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Christmas Rewatch Review – Christmas With The Kranks

A lot of films are based on books, essays, short stories, etc. Some authors have had a lot of films based on their work; William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, and Stephen King are the most prolific. And who is fourth? None other than John Grisham! One of my all time favourite films, Runaway Jury, is an adaptation of a John Grisham novel so it seems appropriate that I should take a look at a Grisham Christmas story. The story I read was called Skipping Christmas which was made into Christmas With The Kranks. Apparently, the name change came about to avoid being confused with Surviving Christmas which came out around the same and was another holiday offering.

So what is Christmas With The Kranks about? We start off on the Sunday after Thanksgiving with Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) getting out of bed and taking their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), to the airport where she is flying out to Peru to work with the Peace Corps for a year. This is the first time that Blair won’t be home for Christmas. On the way back the Kranks have to do a bit of shopping. It is raining, Luther gets wet and miserable and sees a poster advertising a Caribbean cruise. The next day, Luther works out how much they spent on Christmas last year and realises that a cruise would be less than half the price. Now he just needs to convince Nora that this will be a good idea!

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Nora Krank, We’re Here For Frosty!

And from here it goes down a well worn route. It is a route that is quite popular at Christmas because the final outcome is a warm, fuzzy, happy, and friendly feeling that radiates through the screen and out to the audience. The example that springs to mind is Deck The Halls; meeting, dispute, escalation, conflict, resolution, appeasement. In Christmas With The Kranks our leads (the Kranks) decide on a course of action which proves unpopular with the neighbours causing everyone to fall out. Something pivotal happens and the situation changes. Everyone forgives and forgets and comes together to produce a happy ending. As is often the case with films like this, there has to be quite a fair amount of willing suspension of disbelief.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks, for me, was the attitude of Luther Krank. So many of his problems could have been reduced if not totally eradicated by his intransigence with the “total boycott of Christmas” stance. After all, he gives in on the charitable donations which Nora insists on. Possibly the most ill advised “hill to die on” is the police calendar. Just because the police rely on the gemütlichkeit of the season to sell more calendars doesn’t mean that buying a calendar is a Christmas activity. Good grief man! You don’t even use it until the new year! Regardless, with things like the tree, which is being sold to raise funds, a simple “I’m sorry but I don’t need a tree this year. Please accept this donation to add to your funds.”  

You’re Skipping Christmas!

I mean, he was banging on about how much he is saving and has thrown away goodness knows how much on botox and sun-bed sessions. He already has some decorations which can be reused and the neighbours have already said that, if he gives them the decorations, they will put them all up. The other spoilerish fly in the ointment comes with the daughter, Blair, missing her first Christmas and being the unknowing instigator of the cruise trip. It his her unexpected return that causes all the kerfuffle and brings the neighbourhood back together. After all, she has been gone for such a very long time. All of…checks notes…under a month! Personally, I would have told my daughter “We’ve booked and paid for a holiday over Christmas. You can stay in the house and we’ll see you in the new year.”

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But there is one thing which I liked. Actually I quite like the whole film but, admittedly, in the same way that I like Deck The Halls. Early on, back when Luther is getting wet doing some shopping, he has an attack of the Grinches and refuses to buy an umbrella off a man dressed as Santa Claus. Later on, when Nora is desperately trying to get both party food and party guests, Marty turns up and gets an invite.  Later on, Marty is the life and soul of the party and, after Luther has had a heartwarming chat with his neighbours, Walt and Bev Scheel (M Emmet Walsh and Elizabeth Franz) he bumps into Marty outside his house.

Isn’t That Against The Law?

Marty is dressed as Santa Claus and says he is off to sell more umbrellas. Luther has a chat and says he is sorry that Marty has to work on Christmas Eve. Marty says “Santa always has to work on Christmas Eve. He then says goodbye, gets into a VW Beetle, and drives off. Now I thought, back when he was talking to Nora in the shop, this guy is a Christmas angel; a bit like Rufus in Love Actually.  But it turns out that he is much more important…Marty is Santa! How do I come to this mind boggling conclusion? Quite simple. At the very end, immediately before the end credits start we see a team of reindeer running along, picking up speed, flying off. We hear Santa shouting out a holiday greeting and, as the reindeer swing around and flying off we see that they are pulling…a VW Beetle!

Marty/Santa was played by Austin Pendleton. And it seems unthinkable that I’ve managed to get almost to the end without mentioning that the leader of the neighbours, and the one behind the campaign to force Christmas on the Kranks, is Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Ackroyd). He’s aided and abetted by his son, Spike (Eric Per Sullivan). The police officers who are selling calendars door to door are Officer Salino (Cheech Marin) and Officer Treen (Jake Busey). Tim Allen is basically an office working version of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor from Home Improvement while Jamie Lee Curtis still has her Scream Queen lungs in full working order! All in all Christmas With The Kranks is an entertaining bit of Christmassy fun. 

Move Grade: B+

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