We all know that there are loads of different kinds of Christmas films. There are the ‘family friendly’ films like ‘Elf’, there are Christmas horror films such as ‘Black Christmas’ and of course there are the Christmas films that take place at Christmas but the central plot pretty much has nothing to do with Christmas such as ‘Die Hard’. ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ is very much in the first category but you see the thing is… All those films are the same. Let me show you. Plot time.
Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) live in Riverside, Illinois in a neighborhood that might as well be called ‘Suburbia Avenue’ where the celebration of Christmas is in place with almost rigorous force. Luther has put up with the Christmas celebrations for the sake of his wife and his daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo). However, this year, Blair is off with the Peace Corp and so won’t be home for Christmas. Nora loves Christmas and still wants to celebrate but Luther uses this opportunity to take his wife on a tropical cruise and leave the cold and the festivities behind.
However, Luther’s defiance of the most wonderful time of the year isn’t greatly appreciated by the neighborhood, especially Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd) who’s basically the ‘Christmas enforcer’ who makes sure that everyone has their Christmas tree’s up and all the decorations are up to regulation standards.
But, when Blair announces that she’s coming home for Christmas after all, Nora scrambles to pull together a full-on American Christmas at the last minute whilst Luther is still clinging to his dream of setting sail.
So, how is this film a typical Christmas film?
Well first of all, there has to be a character who either hasn’t got, never had, or has forgotten the ‘true meaning of Christmas’. That would be Luther.
Also, there has to be an element of slapstick and misfortune and of course the ‘all is lost moment’ which then becomes resolved and therefore the resolution of the ‘Christmas Spirit’.
One thing that I didn’t like about this film was Dan Aykroyd’s character. Last time I checked, America was a free country and Christmas is not a mandatory holiday. If you want to celebrate it, then it’s up to you (if you can handle everyone calling you a miserable, curmudgeonly, old bastard forever) and no one should stand in your way. The point is that if you don’t like the cold and the trees and the tinsel and you want to go on a cruise for Christmas, go for it.
When I watched this film and I watched the whole of Luther and Nora’s neighborhood gathering on their lawn, enquiring about why they hadn’t put any Christmas decorations up yet, it infuriated me. What Luther should have said was, “It’s none of your fucking business. You’re on my lawn, I’m getting my gun.” Of course, he can’t say that because it’s a ‘family friendly’ film and there are kids watching.
As with the book, there is a competition for the best decorated neighborhood, hence the resident’s eagerness to get the Kranks onboard and Christmassy but they lose because of their apprehension for all things Christmas and that just causes more animosity.
What is interesting is that it seems that Nora is easily influenced. She was coerced into going on the cruise with her husband even though it’s not entirely clear if she actually wants to go but then it seems that she can’t be left alone because there is a danger that Vic will come over and bring her around to the ‘Christmas’ way of thinking.
Luther isn’t innocent in all this because he acts like a dickbag in this film such as freezing the lawn so carol singers can’t come around and do their thing.
It seems that the film doesn’t want the Kranks to go away for Christmas because all of their efforts to go on a cruise are trashed at every turn such as when they both get spray tans which ends in Nora banging her head. But then again, when Blair is coming home and Nora wants to have Christmas after all, their efforts to get Christmas sorted are also trashed at every turn. Nora is unable to find a Christmas ham and Luther can’t get a tree, so he has to borrow one from his neighbors who are going on holiday. He also has a catastrophe when he tries to put up a roof decoration.
However, here comes the turn when Vic comes forward with the rest of the neighborhood with Christmas supplies to put together a nice and recognizable Christmas for Blair and Nora is overjoyed to have her daughter and hunky fiancée home for Christmas but Luther is anything but overjoyed. He still wants to go on the cruise but Nora finally puts her foot down and refuses to go.
In the end, Luther finds his Christmas spirit by giving the tickets to a couple who live across the road. Walt Scheel (M. Emmett Walsh) and his wife, Bev (Elizabeth Franz) are likely to only spend one last holiday together since Bev has been re-diagnosed with cancer after it being remission for some time. Luther offers the cruise tickets to the couple who at first decline and then accept. Luther has regained his Christmas spirit and realise that Christmas is about ‘giving’ and ‘family’ and maybe skipping it wasn’t the best idea. Really, dude? After all that? Now Christmas is cool?
Well, we all knew that was going to happen. Luther cannot be of the mind of ‘Fuck Christmas’ by the end because that’s not very Christmassy. In the end, ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ is a very predictable film as it fits into a category of ‘family friendly’ Christmas films. I’m not saying that it’s not entertaining, it is a good film but it’s just one of those things… you know what I mean?
‘Christmas with the Kranks’ did make almost $97 Million against a mysteriously large $60 Million budget but not many others liked it, especially the critics.
Another Christmas film down. This one’s for my Mum.
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