Stop the presses! The Kranks want to skip Christmas. After years of going all out with award-winning Christmas decorations, elaborate Christmas Eve parties, massive Christmas trees, hundreds of Christmas cards, plentiful Christmas feasts, generous Christmas donations and overwhelming Christmas gifts, they’ve had enough … at least for this year.
With his daughter, Blair, out of the country, Luther Krank decides to save the $6,000-plus the family normally spends on the seasonal routine and use it to take his wife, Nora, on a Caribbean cruise. But just saying no to Christmas isn’t as easy as it sounds in the Kranks’ decorationally obsessed town. Scowls and frowns from aghast Hemlock Street neighbors quickly morph into an organized effort (spearheaded by Vic Frohmeyer) to coax the Kranks into putting up their traditional rooftop Frosty. When Luther persists with his holiday boycott, threatening phone calls and sidewalk protests ensue.
By Christmas Eve, the Kranks are primed, pre-tanned and prepped for their ocean getaway. Then comes the call: Blair’s coming home—surprise!—with her new fiancé … in only a few hours. With holiday supplies all but depleted and not a single stocking hung, the Kranks abandon their cruise and make a mad dash to “create” Christmas before their beloved daughter arrives.
The Kranks’ family bond is strong. From sending Blair off to her Peace Corps assignment to meeting her soon-to-be husband, Luther and Nora genuinely support and love their daughter. And when Blair informs them she’s coming home, her parents will go to any extreme to ensure their daughter’s happiness. (Sure, their reaction is silly, but the sentiment’s as sweet as a sugar plum.)
Better yet, Christmas With the Kranks doesn’t just hint at positive themes of love, caring, community, selflessness and giving, its characters talk about and act out these morals. Despite their decision to save money by boycotting Christmas, Nora is adamant about still adhering to the season’s spirit of charity. She helps out with a Salvation Army meal, reads to kids at a local hospital and refuses to go on the Caribbean trip until her husband agrees to continue their traditional donations to the hospital and a church. She also comforts various neighbors in times of distress and need, and even invites a lonely stranger to her Christmas Eve party.
The Hemlock Street residents think Luther’s a bit of a scrooge for ditching Christmas, but they join forces and pitch in when the Kranks are in need. “We’re a community, and communities stick together,” says Vic, who goes so far as to (falsely) credit Luther with all the group’s decorating efforts when Blair arrives. When faced with the option to sacrifice or be selfish, Luther sets aside his differences with a down-and-out couple and surprises them with a whopper of a present.
Commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ is hardly a point of focus here; the three wise men get the only manger mention. But unlike numerous other Hollywood depictions of seasonal celebration, Christmas With the Kranks at least includes the spiritual fruits highlighted during the Christmas season. Love, joy, kindness, compassion, as well as giving, community and selflessness—these are all found in heavy doses throughout the movie. In addition, the Christian meaning of Christmas is portrayed as relevant rather than a Santa Clause-like myth.
Elsewhere, the Kranks’ clergyman makes a few appearances as a natural part of the family’s social circle. Several times, Nora mentions giving to the church. When carolers from a Lutheran church discover that Luther isn’t celebrating Christmas, they ask a neighbor if he’s Jewish or Buddhist. Later, Luther jokes about people worshipping trees.
The promotional poster for the Caribbean cruise features a bikini-clad couple walking along the beach. When Luther reveals his getaway plans to Nora during dinner, she misreads him and thinks he’s initiating an impromptu tabletop romp. The couple’s apparent routine of Saturday night sex is alluded to twice. When learning about Blair’s fiancé, Luther wonders if she’s been “shacking up” with her new romantic interest.
Upon receiving a small bikini, Nora holds the top to her breast and questions its ability to cover her. She’s right to do so. Later, she nearly falls out of it while visiting a tanning salon (the camera zooms in for a close-up as her priest stares). Luther gets in on the act by donning his bikini bottom.
Nora rolls up her car window on an overbearing neighbor’s fingers. A man whacks another man over the head with an umbrella. Luther maliciously ices over his sidewalk to make harassing neighbors slip and fall. Slapstick violence—stepping on a cat’s tail, tackling a little boy, getting shocked while putting up Christmas lights, falling off a roof—pops up throughout the film and is an integral part of the movie’s laugh factor.
Standard PG profanities (“d–n,” “h—“) can be counted on one hand. They include a couple of exclamatory uses of God’s name.
Though there’s no drunkenness on display, the residents of Hemlock Street like to drink—a lot. Luther and Nora drink wine with dinner on a couple of occasions. At the Kranks’ neighborhood bash, virtually everyone—including Blair and her fiancé—is seen with a filled glass in hand. Nora goes shopping in a liquor store and selects a bottle of wine. Scenes also include a neighbor drinking beer and another smoking a pipe. Luther pretends to light up a bundle of sticks and asks, “Are these legal?”
As part of Luther and Nora’s cover-up, they fib about how far along they are on their Christmas preparations. The police officers and neighbors also mislead Blair and her fiancé.
In an out-of-place line, Luther jokes about a botched house-decorating attempt as an attempted suicide.
The essence of Christmas is in a gift. God gave His Son as the most wonderful present this world has ever known. And it’s not just Christians who honor that spirit of charity by offering tokens of appreciation to each other during the holiday season.
The reality, however, is that it’s easy to let the festivities of the gift-giving season surpass the Gift. Christmas With the Kranks hilariously showcases the fanfare created by an average family’s desire to follow seasonal tradition. It doesn’t direct audiences to the Creator who makes Christmas possible, but its point is still a poignant one: Is every decoration, every party and every 12-course meal necessary?
For most of us, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until we’ve checked off everything on our list of holiday routines. And there’s nothing wrong with continuing your family’s unique way of celebrating Christmas. But does following these traditions ever seem to interrupt with the true meaning of the season? Have you ever awoken from the frenzy to discover another Christmas has come and gone without you truly worshipping God’s Gift to you? This holiday, whether you see Christmas With the Kranks or not, don’t let tradition get in the way of unwrapping the greatest Gift ever given.