John Grisham Skips Christmas
By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter
- When novelist John Grisham, renown for thrillers (The Firm,
The Pelican Brief, The Client), had one of his biggest successes
a couple of years back with the humorous Skipping Christmas, Hollywood
once again came to call. The writer was paid due respect by placing his book
in the professional hands of those familiar with all things X-Mas. Yes, X-Mas,
because this holiday-themed comic read pokes fun at the commercialization
of December 25th yet manages to forgo any acknowledgement of whose birthday
the observance was designed to celebrate.
The film’s director, Joe Roth (founder of Revolution Studios, which
produced Black Hawk Down, and director of American’s Sweethearts),
has the true meaning of Hollywood Christmas in his blood. “It’s
very much a story about Christmas as a unifying time of year. It’s about
friends, family and community.”
“I see this as a family Christmas comedy. But it also satirizes the
greed and commercialism of Christmas,” said Christopher Columbus (Home
Alone & Home Alone 2, Only the Lonely, Mrs.
Doubfire), who, besides producing, took on the screenplay duties for
Christmas With The Kranks. “There’s an underside to the
happy faces and festivities of the season.
“Our lead character, Luther Krank, is a selfish man. There’s
a lot of that going around. But sometimes selfish people learn the truism,
‘it’s better to give than to receive.’ It’s not until
Luther gives up what he wants most for Christmas that he gains the true satisfaction
of the holiday.”
“Luther has to hit bottom first before he has his moment of clarity,”
says Luther Krank, himself, Tim Allen. Allen is becoming the king of Christmas
films, having already played Jolly Old St. Nick in two successful comedies
(The Santa Clause & The Santa Clause 2). “There
wasn’t any planned strategy concerning me and Christmas movies. I loved
the script, loved the idea of working with Chris Columbus, Joe (Roth) and
Jamie Lee Curtis, there was a good opening in my schedule, and then there
was the money. [Ho, ho, ho.]
“Besides being a farce, it was also a film about something. It knocks
fascism and conformity while at the same time saluting community and selflessness,”
Allen quickly added.
Ironically, several of the showbiz veterans interviewed for Christmas
With the Kranks either felt Christmas was for kids or, like the lead
character, intended to skip it altogether. Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Luther’s
wife, Nora, informed interviewers that she was boycotting the purchase of
presents for adults. “Adults already have enough.” (An observation
that could be perceived as one from a grownup seldom passed over by Santa.)
Danny Aykroyd, disgusted with the commercialization of Christmas, was also
passing on the purchase of things in order to take his family on a trip to
On the other hand, Julie Gonzalo, who plays Luther Krank’s daughter
Blair, spoke of the spiritual meaning of the season. Well, somewhat. Her mother,
a devote Catholic, considers Christmas Day to be sacred. Open and delightful,
Ms. Gonzalo frequently paid homage for her luck in relationships, in timing
and in the roles she has been given by repeating, “Thank God.”
Without prompting, she even offered, “I have faith. My own faith.”
In the hills of Hollywood, “my own faith” usually signals a New
Age freedom that offers spiritual fulfillment without the pesky requirements
Sadly, John Grisham, noted for his interview reluctance, did not respond
to a list of submitted questions concerning this project. His shyness may
be due to the time consumption needed to tolerate often-inane press questions,
or he may have simply been unwilling to disclose his personal life.
As Mr. Grisham is reportedly a believer in Christ and a member of a Baptist
church, it is disappointing that the celebrated author would not take the
opportunity to state what the season represented to him. Since the book and
now the film focus on slapstick situations and the homily “it’s
about friends, family and community,” it would have at least been satisfying
for one of the most successful writers of our time to declare Christmas to
be a day we celebrate the birth of our Lord. After all, how successful does
an author have to become before he feels comfortable enough in relating his
perspective on faith? Considering the film in question has Christmas as its
backdrop, it seemed to be an opportunity missed.
Christmas With the Kranks is yet again another entry in the Christmas-themed
genre that spotlights the secularation of Christmas. There are some funny
bits and a moving ending that keep the images of painted candy canes and frosted
window panes alive and well. It’s also a fine moral about the importance
of friends and loved ones. No harm in that. After all, didn’t Jesus
already have his Passionate theatrical shot at fame this year?
Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. Review used by
permission. Go to Phil Boatwright's website at www.moviereporter.com
for details on how to have reviews of new films delivered directly to your e-mail
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.