Monday, December 19, 2011

Virgins In Your Stocking! A Carol Christmas

There's a reason why Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol remains the most popular holiday themed novel, local community theater play, and plot outline for sitcoms come every December. It's a brilliantly appealing story that can be applied to any subject in any medium, be that a newspaper comic strip or Halloween Roseanne episode.

You start with a villain that demands hatred, say, a man who tosses cute bunny Muppets into the snowy streets of London or an executive that fires a family man on Christmas Eve. We have to DESPISE this person (or animated duck) as much as we pity the poor but kind Bob Cratchit.

Hence, who better to cast in such a role than Tori My Daddy Got Me A Lot Of Work Then Disherinted Me From His Will Spelling, otherwise known (to me, forever) as Donna Martin. A Carol Christmas (get it?) is yet another Hallmark stab at Dickens' novella, and since anyone alive today knows the story, allow me to instead present it by breaking down the character list:
Ebenezer Scrooge = Carol Cartman, a talk show hostess in the vein of Ricki Lake (does that reference date me? Does it matter when I'm going to refer to Carol as Donna Martin Graduates for this whole review anyway?) who treats her employees with disdain.

Bob Cratchit = Roberta, Donna Martin Graduates' long-suffering single-mom assistant struggling to balance motherhood with her high maintenance, low paying boss

Tiny Tim = Little Redheaded Girl daughter of Roberta. No limp. No crutch. No accent. No bother.

Nephew Fred = Big sister Lindsey who does that annoying family thing practiced in Holiday In Handcuffs of reading Christmas tales out loud while wearing ugly sweaters

Jacob Marley = Aunt Marla, played by Dinah Manoff (lifelong free pass for Soap and being Chucky's first victim), Donna Martin Graduates' overbearring agent aunt who made sure her niece was always the star, even if it meant swiping the Virgin Mary role from a kid with a dead mom at the annual nativity play

Ghost of Christmas Past = Gary Coleman. And yes: I'm just as angry as you are that he's not playing Tiny Tim.

Ghost of Christmas Present = William Shatne moodily coasting as if the entire shoot was purchased on a Priceline deal that ended up costing way more than advertised with taxes and insurance

Ghost of Christmas Future = A limo driver, not unlike the creepy dude in Burnt Offerings

Ex-(Almost) Fiancee
Tall, good-looking and dull do-gooder who works at homeless shelters (i.e., Karren Allen but less interesting). That being said, he's played by an actor I recall from Days of Lives back in the early 90s and my goodness, the man hasn't aged a day. So bonus points for casting a vampire

If you're being reminded of a much better Christmas Carol-themed comedy about a bigwig TV executive, his neglected sibling, homeless helping ex, and put-upon single mom assistant, I assume you have a working brain. Yes, whoever wrote A Carol Christmas was clearly inspired by Scrooged and no, it's not anywhere near as Solid Gold.

Also, it does that obnoxious Christmas movie-on-a-budget thing by taking place in California, thusly sparing the crew from the hazards/annoyance of fake or real snow. How convenient. And lazy.
As far as the movie goes, eh. Tori Spelling has never oozed charisma, and her bitchy career woman shtick never truly captures the nasty spirit we look for in a proper Scrooge. What's worse is her after-the-ghost reaction, which should be bursting with the holiday spirit in a manner that's either joyous (think Michael Caine's soft smiles) or insane (BILL MURRAY WANTS YOU TO SING GODDAMNIT!). As Happy Carol, Donna Martin Graduates smiles a little more, gives her staff a vacation to Hawaii, and raises her assistant's salary while offering her second house free of charge. Oh, and in my favorite character decision of all time, Carol announces that after years of turning down lucrative merchandising opportunities, she will now put her name on whatever clothing or cooking product proposed and donate the proceeds to charity.

I really hope there's a sequel where Carol discovers said goods are made under sweatshop conditions. The Olsen Twins could play the child laborers! It'd be meta!

Instead, we settle for blah humbug.

See what I did there?
Lessons Learned
You look pale when you’re dead
Pop is the sound of Gary Coleman bursting your bubble

There’s not much work for a middle aged actor who’s too small to be a jockey. That should explain Coleman's career choices (including A Carol Christmas)
Montage Mania
Donna and Boy Karen Allen enjoy a foggy courtship complete with wine drinking, picnicking, roller skating, and donating goods to a homeless shelter, all set to country music because how else can a TV movie convey falling in love?
Token Slapstick
One of Carol's employees just can't stop dropping things. It's hilarious!
Coal or Candy?
A Carol Christmas isn't unwatchable, but I can't think of any reason to watch it when Scrooged is playing on AMC or 90210 reruns exist on youtube. Spelling doesn't embarrass herself, but the movie never commits to its self-aware Hollywooddom, nor does it have the energy to truly be a Scrooge reborn. It is what it is, and while it's probably better than ex-roommate Kelly Taylor's A Christmas Wedding Tail, it's also less hilariously bad, making it just kinda there.

I think I need to put a little love in my heart now.


  1. Your description makes me think that A Carol Christmas is not the enjoyable trainwreck that it ought to be and is instead some kind of mediocre banality. The first tip off is the cover, in which Tori seems to have beamed down into the poster for Love Actually.

    If you're not all Christmas Carol-ed out this year, try to catch Rich Little's A Christmas Carol, a 1978 special available in its entirety on YouTube. It's such a gimmicky oddity that it deserves to be studied. WARNING: It features a rather heavy-handed use of a laugh track, and I don't think any of the celebrities Little imitates are still alive in 2011. Peter Falk might've been the last of that group to go.

    P.S. - Dinah Manoff was adorable as Mafia princess Elaine Lefkowitz on Soap. Good that she's at least still working.

  2. Sorry Wayne, it's no A Christmas Wedding Tail! Not good by any means, but so average and bland and without bite that eh, disappointing in that sense.

    I may do some youtube hopping yet! I can generally handle old school laugh tracks because I accept it as a product of its time. It's more modern laugh track usage that irks me. The country now knows that it's from a can. You're not fooling anybody!

    Loved Manoff on Soap. Loved how everyone hated her on Soap.

  3. Merry Christmas Emily.

  4. The most recent OTC sent me to your blog and I have to point you towards my favorite x-mass film, Hi Life a Frank Cappra like film that mostly is about collecting debts....

  5. Welcome Iren! I assume you mean It's a Wonderful Life? I FINALLY watched it for the first time a few weeks ago. Despite its nearly non-stop airing around the holidays, I had always avoided the film but wow, I absolutely adored it. Even though I've seen the story parodied and homaged so many times, the film truly holds up and yes... I cried.

  6. Emily.... It's a Wonder Life is a great film, but the one I am talking about is....

    written an directed by Roger Hedden who also did Sleep with Me adn Bodies, Rest & Motion.

  7. aaaah, I was trying to search Frank Capra and assumed it was that one. I've never heard of Hi-Life, although I'm a huger-than-I-should-be Eric Stoltz fan so I'm definitely putting it on my list!