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
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?
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)
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?
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.