MRR Movie Review: Christmas with the Kranks

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Luther Krank is fed up with the commerciality of Christmas; he decides to skip the holiday and go on a vacation with his wife instead. But when his daughter decides at the last minute to come home, he must put together a holiday celebration.
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Movie Review: "Christmas with the Kranks"

-- Rating: PG
Length: 99 minutes
Release date: Nov. 24, 2004
Directed by: Joe Roth
Genre: Comedy / Family

Ever want to ditch the holiday hum-drum and fly away to a tropical paradise? This is how the Kranks feel.

Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Luther Krank (Tim Allen) are looking at their first Christmas without their only daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo).

Facing a dreary holiday, Luther Krank decides that this will be the year that they can forget the holidays and go on vacation. Once he has convinced his wife Nora, Luther thinks that things are smooth sailing. In a few short days, however, the family finds out what Christmas really means, not only to their family, but also to the entire community.

Getting ready for the holiday is something that Nora is an expert at. She always does the parties, extravagant decorations, great home-cooked meals and gifts. Luther also has his traditional donations to the local police, his usual outdoor display and other community activities.

This year, however, the Kranks find out that Blair is not coming home for Christmas. They are gloomy at first, but Luther turns things around with a tropical vacation idea that Nora cannot refuse. He reasons that they normally spend a small fortune on Christmas and so they can invest that money on themselves this year, in the form of a tropical cruise.

Instead of going about their usual habits, the Kranks start preparations for a Christmas away from the neighborhood. They are immediately met with resistance but Luther doesn't want to reveal their plans out of fear of what the neighbors will think. Seeing Luther spray-tanned to an orange glow, along with other odd behavior, the neighbors think the Kranks have gone crazy and feel that an intervention is needed.

Covert Frosty the Snowman missions, badgering by the local police charity and outright harassment by the printer who depends on the Kranks' party invitations every year are just some of the things that the couple have to endure. Add in a group of caroling stalkers, along with "Save Frosty" picketers and you have the madness that the Kranks were so desperate to get away from. They become a local tabloid sensation, while Luther compounds things with a memo to his staff about a Christmas boycott.

Trouble ensues, but the trip is still on that is, until Blair announces that she will be coming home for Christmas after all. Luther and Nora have only a few days to get their act and their traditional Christmas together. The hilarity that ensues is shows comedians Allen and Curtis at their best. It begins with a mad dash to the grocery store where, of course, nothing is available. Luther can't pay for a good tree and there is no time to get all the decorations up before Blair arrives. A stolen tree, smoked trout, burglars and Frosty in a noose are just some of the oddities that result from the hurried preparations.

The fun of "Christmas with the Kranks" is in the masters of comedy in the supporting roles. Dan Aykroyd, Felicity Huffman, Caroline Rhea, Jake Busey, Cheech Marin and many others round out this fun family film.

It is important to note that this movie is based on the novel "Skipping Christmas" by the legal novelist John Grisham. The novel's popularity came partially from its unlikely origins. The fact that Grisham's work translates well on film helps its popularity.

In casting Allen and Curtis, among the rest of the comedic talents in the movie, director Joe Roth effectively creates a funnier piece than Grisham could have, using some of the same lines spoken by the book's characters.

Despite all the humor, Roth also manages to convey the spirit of the story. In their scramble to recreate Christmas on the fly for Blair, they find that things, events and gifts are not the point of the holidays. Giving, sharing, community and family are.

"Christmas with the Kranks" is fun and entertaining for the entire family. Kids will enjoy the physical comedy executed by the actors, while adults will sympathize with the plight of the Kranks from their quest to get out of town to their renewed mission to get Christmas back for Blair.

Roth does an excellent job of firstly making viewers hate the community, only to turn that hate into a heartfelt rooting for Christmas and the community trying to recreate it. "Christmas with the Kranks" will easily become one of the holiday film classics that people will watch regularly for years to come.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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