I can remember a year in my youth when Mom was seriously considering skipping Christmas...I can't remember precisely when or why...and that may be because it never actually happened...but I still can remember it. When I think of such an idea, especially now on Christmas Eve, I can't help but have the kneejerk reaction of "what a silly idea"...and then I wonder, what would it be like to skip Christmas for a year. I'd certainly save money, and I wouldn't need to rush around my holiday break trying to see every family member that I know. Also, I wouldn't need to burden anyone else with buying gifts for me, so others would save money as well. As one rationalizes it, it becomes a rather good idea...to at least try once. Of course, then I'd be missing the family and the fun of Christmas, and that's the real point. I think that's what John Grisham was thinking when he wrote his light, frothy comedy "Skipping Christmas" as a short novella that was entertaining enough to entice Chris Columbus to produce a movie based on the book, which was to share the same title but happened to come out in the same year as Surviving Christmas and they didn't want title confusion, so the studio changed the title to Christmas With the Kranks, which started the film adaptation rolling downhill.
The story goes as follows: Luther and Nora Krank are depressed this holiday season because their daughter, Blair, is joining the Peace Corps and won't be home for Christmas for the first time since...well....ever. Nora intends to keep on truckin' with the Christmas plans, but Luther begins to actually think about what they spend on Christmas each year (he's an accountant). When he tallies the numbers and compares it to what they might spend on a Christmas cruise instead, he finds that they can save money if they simply skip Christmas and spend the cash on a cruise. Nora thinks this means just not doing presents and a party...but for Luther it means a total boycott. No charities, no tree, no decor, no calendar, nada. Nora talks him down to the cruise and the charities and they agree to skip Christmas (afterall, no one will be around anyway). But when their friends and neighbors hear of this, they are concerned and confused...and the situation escalates as the neighbors try to convince the Kranks to put out their decorations and Luther fights them on it. It slowly dissolves into a chaotic and satricial look at how we treat people who don't celebrate Christmas, as well as a skewering of how people easily overlook the real core ideals of Christmas. Of course, most of this is gold in the book and in the film...it plays merely ok. The title change is the first misstep, and a lot of the slapstick is over done in the film as well. The secondary characters become two-dimensional Christmas nazis and the ending never seems like a surprise (except for the VERY end, which makes little to no sense). I still like the movie, because it does keep a lot of what's right about the novel...but the filmmakers missed the mark on what should have been a subtle satire and became a loud and obnoxious farce. Still, its Christmas Eve and if there's anything this story tells me, its to give those you don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with the benifit of the doubt. So I shall watch Christmas with the Kranks tonight with an open-mind and will chuckle at Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen who are a perfect Nora and Luther...even if the rest of the film around them is less that perfect.