I’m afraid I have a bit of a confession to make- I like cheesy made for TV movies. I can’t explain why because they are the junk food of the cinema world. What can I say every now and then I feel like some junk food movies! This is particularly true at Christmas. Most made for TV Christmas movies are syrupy and silly but overall pleasant. The kind of movies that used to be made all the time and are out of fashion by the bigger studios. There are times when I don’t want to be challenged but just enjoy a silly movie and romcoms in Hollywood have gotten so vulgar and crass these days that it’s very frustrating. But at least I still have my Hallmark and Lifetime movies to keep me goey and happy.
So with that said let’s talk about 2 made for TV versions of A Christmas Carol. I group them together because they are essentially the same movie- A Carol Christmas starring Tori Spelling and A Diva’s Christmas Carol by Vanessa Williams. They are both technically weak but I enjoy watching them. Of the two the Diva’s is better but mostly because I’d take a funny Kathy Griffin over Gary Coleman any day.
They are both the story of the Barbie Christmas Carol but that movie is a little more clever with details like mirrors for the Aunt Marley character and lots of traditional Christmas songs sung well. Plus at least Barbie has animation that while on a direct to DVD level is more interesting than any film-making in either of these TV movies.
So they are both about divas who have let fame get to their heads:
Vanessa Williams plays Ebony, a Whitney Houston type who has forgotten her past as a foster kid who was part of a trio and then became a star.
Tori Spelling plays Carol Cartman a TV Show host who’s aunt manipulated her career, forcing her to choose fame over friends (this one is really like the Barbie version).
Both of them are making their poor beleaguered staff work on Christmas Day and both say ‘bah humbug’ and order people around like slaves. (Must be nice to be a diva sometimes… 😉 ).
Both have assistants that are the Bob Cratchit’s. Vanessa’s is a man named Bob who she briefly dated but now has a son Tim who is dying. Tori has an assistant named Roberta who has a daughter named Lilly who’s ex is trying to take away from her because of all the hours she works for Tori.
So we get our Marley
For Vanessa she is an ex-bandmate named Marli who died in a car crash played by Chili from the band TLC. There are some special effects that are pretty good when she shows her ‘real’ face to Ebony. I also thought her chains were kind of clever.
Tori’s Marley is her Aunt Marla who Tori (Carol) always thought had her back but she tells Tori she was wrong. She comes alive in a picture first and then we see her. They could have done something more clever with her chains than just a few normal looking necklaces. Did Marla have Carol’s back or was she actually out for her own good? Hmmm…
Then we get Past
For Vanessa it is Kathy Griffin who has some funny lines like when her outfit is complimented “last year I had to show Tom Ford all of his Christmas”. That made me laugh.
Another funny line is “Stop being so hauntable. You skinny witch. Did you say skinny?” Considering what she had to work with I thought it was pretty good.
We learn from Past that Ebony had a tough road with a mean father, and she was taken away from her brother on Christmas.
He gets some jokes at his past. The main point of Past is to show Tori who her Aunt really was and how she caused her to end things with her philanthropic ex.
He shows her the dumps her band is staying in and that Bob is about to quit to be with his son who is dying. He also shows her how Terri her former bandmate is doing.
In Tori’s version we have the great William Shatner as Present, and we see Tori’s ex is still doing good, and Roberta’s ex trying to take Lily away. We also look in on her sister’s family who Roberta buys nicer gifts than the $20 Tori gives her to spend.
We also learn that her aunt Marla’s cohort is trying to change the show to a Jerry Springer like program that focuses on Freaks because sincere stories don’t sell (tell that to Oprah…). Tori is horrified.
I thought Future was kind of clever in Vanessa’s version instead of having an actual ghost she stumbles upon a VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ program about the rise and fall of her life. She then watches as everyone from Bob to her crew hate on her and she finds out about her tragic death. Given the Diva’s Christmas Carol aired on VH1 I thought it was a funny in-joke and touch.
Both films show the characters funerals with nobody attending but the Cratchit’s of the stories. The endings are also basically the same with them giving their Cratchit assistants raises and helping out the Tim’s. They both treat their cast and crew better and give money to charity. Tori ends up back with the ex (spoiler alert!).
Both of these movies fall into the category if my explanation sounds like something you will hate than you will hate them. If they sound like something you will enjoy than you will enjoy them. Movies like these are kind of like soap operas. We all know when watching a soap opera that it is stupid and the acting is terrible but if done with enough camp and silliness than they are entertaining. A guilty pleasure I guess.
So while I can’t recommend them, I must own that I enjoyed watching both of them. (I mean doing a strengths and weaknesses on these films is kind of ridiculous) It also probably helps that both leading ladies have reputations of being high maintenance and I’ve always liked Tori Spelling since 90210 days. Vanessa Williams also can sing which helps in those sections. Diva is definitely better than the Tori film but they are close.
Want a good laugh? Read this article of why Diva’s Christmas Carol is best holiday film ever. http://www.buzzfeed.com/lucaslascivious/why-a-divas-christmas-carol-is-the-best-holiday-54hg
I’m going to have to watch the silent films next to regain any kind of credibility I just lost from this review 😉
Also- the difference between these movies and the All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol which I hated so much is that wasn’t even fun. These movies know they are terrible and embrace it. You don’t cast Gary Coleman and William Shatner in your movie if you are trying to make a serious film. All Dogs is shrill, mean, obnoxious and stupid; whereas, these are just stupid and silly.