Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Top 25 Christmas Movies List: #16 Christmas with the Kranks

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

    Christmas with the Kranks is based on a book, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (no, really it is). The story is about Luther and Nora Krank (played by Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis), a typical suburban couple that have always celebrated Christmas in a big way. That is until their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo) decides to join the Peace Corps and will be spending the holidays in Peru.

    After spotting a poster for a Caribbean cruise in a travel agency's window, Luther gets the idea that they should skip Christmas and everything related to it in lieu of a vacation. After some calculations, a lot of convincing and promising that they will still give their annual donations to the church and children's hospital Nora finally agrees to go along with Luther's plans.

   But as their excitement at the planning grows they soon learn that their boycott on Christmas has angered many of their friends and neighbors including the local Boy Scout troop and police. Most offended by their decision, is Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), who tries to force the Kranks to decorate their home in order to prevent losing the prize for Best Decorated Street. He even gets neighborhood children to picket and demand that "Frosty" be set up. But Luther refuses to give in to this mass manipulation. He goes as far as watering his sidewalk to make it too slick for the annoying Christmas carolers to walk up to his house.

   Despite all the scheming by Vic and the other neighbors, Luther and Nora make it to Christmas Eve having stood their ground when they get an unexpected call from their daughter Blair. She is calling from the airport and heading home to introduce them to her fiance Enrique. And since he is from Peru, she is excited about sharing her American holiday traditions with her new husband-to-be. She asks if they are having their usual Christmas Eve party and Nora says "yes". Nora gets off the phone begins panicking, she has only hours to get Christmas underway for the arrival of her daughter and future son-in-law.

    She sends Luther on a list of errands while she runs to the store to get a honey ham and all the fixings. She manages to get the last ham but it gets run over and she has to settle for smoked trout. Luther is just as successful when he goes to buy a Christmas tree and the only one left is dead, gray and ugly. After several other mishaps and decorating disasters Luther heads up on the roof to set up "Frosty" and soon finds himself hanging upside down while the neighbors happily watch.

   After they inquire as to why they are decorating at such a late time, Luther and Nora come clean and explain Blair's change of plans. The neighbors, inspired by a rousing speech from Vic, and their love for sweet Blair, agree to come together and help the Kranks prepare for her arrival. Luther, Nora and their kind neighbors are now on a race against the clock to make it appear as if it has been Christmas as usual at the Kranks' home. Even the police offer to pick up Blair and Enrique in order to help stall their arrival.

   After an unusual stop and chase, they finally arrive and the Kranks have everything in order, just in the nick of time. The party is a great success and everyone is enjoying one another's company, that is, except Luther. He is still pouting about not getting his way. Later he comes up with a back-up plan. He tries to convince Nora that they can still go on their cruise and leave their daughter and future son-in-law behind to housesit. Nora is appalled at this idea and the fact that he doesn't even care about spending any time with his family.

   Just then Luther notices Walt and Bev Scheel, his neighbors from across the street, sitting at their table having Christmas dinner alone. He walks over and Walt explains that they did not attend the party because Bev is tired (it is revealed earlier in the movie that Bev's cancer has returned). Luther heads back towards his home, then stops and watches through the window at his own healthy, joyous family celebrating their good news then turns back towards the Scheel's home. He gives them the tickets and paperwork for his all-inclusive 10-day cruise and insists they go and have some fun. They hesitate at first, then begin to change their mind, but after realizing they won't have anyone to take care of their cat, they decline. Luther offers to look after Muffles while they are gone and they agree. Walt thanks Luther and heads into the house to help Bev pack.

   As he walks back home, Luther realizes that "Skipping Christmas" wasn't such a great idea after all.

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