Gary Coleman and Tori Spelling in A Carol Christmas (2003)

Christmas is Spelled Out for Spelling

Under the guidance of her late Aunt Marla (Dinah Manoff), Carol (Tori Spelling) has become a star with her own chat show but she is also a self-centred cow who is nasty to everyone who works on her show. And it's not just her work colleagues as her sister and family don't come off any better. But with the show's Christmas special just a few hours away Carol gets paid a visit firstly from the ghostly figure of her Aunt Marla and then the ghosts of Christmas past, present and Future who show Carol the error of her ways.

"A Carol Christmas" is another of those movies which attempts to update Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to a more contemporary setting but keeping it familiar by not messing around with the fundamentals. As such Scrooge may be switched out for Carol but she still discovers through a series of ghostly visitations that she is a nasty piece of work and needs to change her ways. And to be honest you don't want or expect those basics to be changed because it is the various ghosts and the change in character which make the story so rounded.

Dinah Manoff as Aunt Marla in A Carol Christmas (2003)

So what that means is that in "A Carol Christmas" various parts of the original story have been re-imagined so rather than having someone called Scrooge we have Carol, instead of working in a business Carol is a shallow chat show host who thinks nothing of making her assistant and crew's life a misery. And so it goes on with other variations including it being her Aunt Marla doing the job of the original Marley all of which are in a way fun because the play on words with character names can be occasionally quite clever such as her assistant being called Timmons with a daughter who Carol refers to as the tiny Timmons. In fact talking of the tiny Timmons the switch on what may happen to her is a nice modern take on the traditional story as there is a threat of a custody battle. Of course not all of it is good and many of these play on names fail and end up being incredibly cheesy but those which do work brighten up what could have been a very bad movie.

Sadly one of the things which doesn't quite come off in "A Carol Christmas" are the famous faces which show up to play Carol's ghostly visitors. Whilst it's initially amusing having William Shatner playing Dr. Bob a chat show host who is the ghost of Christmas Present and who speaks in cheesy metaphors by the time his part has come to an end you are thankful. The same can be said of the ghost of Christmas Past which sees Gary Coleman cropping up as the ghostly guide. It's the same thing as whilst Coleman is initially amusing you soon tire of him. Thankfully one which does work is Dinah Manoff who is just brilliant as Marla in an amusingly trashy sort of way.

But whilst there are these familiar faces and names as well as some nice performances from the likes of Nina Siemaszko who plays Roberta Timmons "A Carol Christmas" is all about Tori Spelling as chat show host Carol. Now on one hand it is a very over the top performance from Spelling especially as she ramps up the self centred side of her character but then it is kind of amusing especially when it comes to her shallowness. But sadly the inspiration of her seeing the light so to speak is lost in trying to be funny and so when the inevitable comes and Carol turns nice it is all incredibly cheesy to the point of being painful.

What this all boils down to is that in the plethora of movies which adapt "A Christmas Carol" "A Carol Christmas" is nearer the bottom but that doesn't mean it's a terrible movie. In fact it has its good points and the play on names and some of the scenarios are quite clever it's just a shame that it all ends up rather too cheesy when it could have stopped at just being fun.

Tags: TV Christmas Movies, Christmas Movies, A Christmas Carol