A Chradvent Carolendar #20: A Carol Christmas (2003)

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This is going to be bad, isn’t it?

Carol Cartman is a mean talk show host who’s nasty to crew members on set because she’s a nasty horrible mean lady who’s nasty and mean. Want to know how mean she is? She gives everyone soap as a present. 

Bob Cratchit = her PA, Roberta Timsins
Fred = her sister Beth
Belle = an incredibly handsome man called John Joyce who’s almost comically charitable

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He’s so great he gets a larger headline than the President.

Carol is hosting a live Christmas special, which is an idea so obviously doomed to failure that any producer who ever thought it up deserves to be punched in the face with a turkey.

While being mean and nasty and not liking her nephew’s handmade Christmas presents, Carol Cartman says “bah humbug” because you have to say that when doing A Christmas Carol even if it sounds awkward and makes no sense in context. What makes it even worse is that A Christmas Carol clearly exists in-universe because the film ends with a reading of it. 

Marley is Aunt Marla played by the lady from Grease who wasn’t Frenchy or Rizzo:

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While lecturing Carol, she gestures to herself and delivers the line “I’m doomed to wander the Earth like this!

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I have legitimately no idea what we’re meant to be horrified at. Is it meant to be all the gold chains she’s wearing? Are they meant to be the chains with which she threatens Scrooge/ Carol? Cos if so, try harder next time, they’re 18 karat min.

The light skippy music underscoring every single scene makes it all feel like an episode of Desperate Housewives. Also because it’s 2003 everyone is wearing those slightly flared Mom Jeans you hear about. These two elements bring a powerfully sharp edge to this film which I didn’t realised I missed until I saw it.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is….

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Here we go. Gary Coleman – WHO IS IN CHARACTER AS HIMSELF – takes us on a series of fantastical magical adventures through history. We learn that Aunt Marla was a key figure in Carol’s life, manipulating her into the soap distributing showbiz goddess she is today. 

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As you can see in that screenshot, she forces Carol to choose between her career or getting married. Let’s see… who wrote this?

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Of course.

Aunt Marla does things like set Carol up a meeting with some agents. This upsets John because he was going to propose to her at a party they were meant to be going to. Carol insists on going to the meeting but she could hardly know otherwise. If John really loved her he’d understand that this is what she’s wanted her entire life and that they don’t need to be around other people in order to get engaged.

Marla is openly hostile to Greg or John or whatever his name is. She tells him to his face that he’s nothing more than a brief stopover on their way to the top. She says “No offence, but good riddance” when he leaves the set one time. Why didn’t he just tell Carol about this? Would she not have believed him? If she wouldn’t have then maybe this relationship isn’t so hot.

But when Aunt Marla plans a secret meeting with an Executive Producer, she crosses that line between everyday villainy and cartoonish supervillany. 

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She announces her true intentions; to team up with this producer on a tv programme hosted by Carol that would start as a regular talk show but eventually turn into a programme dedicated to interviewing “freaks”. 

It pains me to say this, but this is even more stupid than the present stealing satanic poodle from An All Dogs Christmas Carol.

That’s her endgame? For 20, 30 years she’s been planning this? What if literally any one element of her plan failed? Why Carol? Why couldn’t she just do it? 

All this new information makes Carol absolutely furious:

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Ok, end of that segment now. We never see or hear anyone mention Aunt Marla ever again.

It’s time for the Ghost of Christmas Present. Who’s it going to be, Urkel?

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FUCK yes. I take everything back, I love this movie now.

Oh no guys. His character is written abysmally, he never stops talking and makes loads of weird self-referential jokes. To preserve Shatner’s legacy I shall therefore never make reference to him here again.

We’re taken to meet Tiny Tim (Lily) who is inexplicably a redhead despite neither of her parents being redheads. Punnet squares people, come on.

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Tim’s deadbeat dad comes around and informs Bob he’s taking her to court for custody. This is, I suppose, a better modern twist on Tim than diagnosing him with a slow growing congenital tumour.

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Nothing says 2003 more than a stretch hummer. 

We get treated to the usual dystopian future of A Christmas Carol. Here, in the not too distant future, Carol has been forced into interviewing freaks and walks out on the production, ending her career in television. This is, of course, would be a massive disaster for Marla’s scheme were she still alive. This film would’ve been more interesting if we were following her reclamation.

There are some other scenes, like an elderly Carol opening a car park – true humiliation. In fact, most of these visions seem to show Carol being humiliated. Is that the ultimate punishment Tom Amundsen could think up? 

At her funeral (she died) Bob and some cameraman are the only attendees. Bob tells us that Lily now lives in Chicago and hates her because of all the time she spent with Carol. Completely unrelated to the custody hearing then?

It’s time for the complete personality 180. The first thing Carol does when waking up is triple Bob’s salary. Triple?! Christ. There’s such a thing as being too generous. 

Carol then uses the live television broadcast to not interview a trial freak but instead to preach the true meaning of Christmas which literally ends with “be nice to each other”.

The smallest studio audience in the world go hog wild for it, I’ll tell you hwhat.

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The executive producer from earlier leans over to Carol and basically says “this was good, we’ll do this instead of the freak stuff”. You signed a contract Hal! Don’t go back on it now! This Christmas stuff is only once a year, the freak stuff will make you millions mid-season!

Carol goes around to her sisters, makes amends, pretty-boy John stops by because he saw her live broadcast, they make amends, yada yada and then everyone gathers round and Carol’s sister’s husband reads the entire of A Christmas Carol to the assembled family. The quintessential Christmas story it may be, but a family storybook it ain’t. Can you imagine anything more depressing than a vivid description of Ignorance and Want just before you hang up your stockings?

They all sing joy to the world as the spirits watch on. But! That’s not all. I take issue with Wikipedia here:

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Wrong, bitch! Scrooged, bitch! If there’s one thing that Chradvent has taught me, and there is only one thing, it’s that.

3 1/2 more Hallmark Christmas Carol adaptations to go out of 10


Weird to think that in 10 years time people will get nostalgic about the time when this film was made as they do now about films from the 90s.

One thought on “A Chradvent Carolendar #20: A Carol Christmas (2003)

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