Carol's Christmas (2019)

I have no idea whether or not you'll be able to watch this movie by the time we post this review.

Lindsay and I stumbled across this on Amazon Prime a while back. It looked like a weird take on A Christmas Carol, so we decided to check it out. As the credits rolled... well, that's actually one of the reasons I suspect you're not going to be able to watch this.

It's not that the credits are particularly unusual: the majority are indistinguishable from a typical Hollywood movie's. It's just that the typical Hollywood movie they are indistinguishable from is specifically the 2019 film, Angel Has Fallen. Once Carol's Christmas runs through its actual cast and crew, it just sort of runs a chunk of credits from Angel Has Fallen. I should note they don't start at the beginning of Angel Has Fallen's credits: they start with the stunt performers. I took a picture:

I have no idea if this was some sort of mistake (i.e.: if they uploaded the wrong file, perhaps one made as a test) or if they wanted time for "All I Want for Christmas is You" and "Last Christmas" to play. And if you're surprised to hear a low-budget film snagged the rights to those two tunes, well...

I mean, maybe they purchased them? I don't have any specific reason to think they didn't, aside from the fact details about the songs didn't make it into the credits for Angel Has Fallen. But this thing was really low budget. I expect those rights would have cost them as much or more than the rest of the movie combined.

There are a couple brand-name products shown directly to the camera, including a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum a minor character drinks along with a bottle of pills in order to commit suicide - I'm a little skeptical the company rubber stamped that. And I can't exactly check the credits to confirm if promotional consideration was provided, because - again - that part of the credits is literally for a different movie.

Same goes for a sequence pulled directly from a Fox News segment about ghosts appearing in videos. It's taken from Tucker Carlson Tonight (though not a segment with him personally), and it feels unlikely Fox would have signed off on the inclusion. There's also a briefer clip from an ABC News broadcast on the same subject.

There are also some suspicious inclusions in the opening credits, such as listing Amber Heard as a script supervisor. While it's certainly possible someone with that name worked on this, they aren't credited on IMDB. Again, that's not necessarily an indication the movie's attempting to mislead anyone, but... with everything else going on... I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

In short, I wouldn't be surprised if this gets pulled without warning.

Let's back up and discuss the movie itself. The premise has a few things in common with the 1997 TV movie, Ms. Scrooge, in that both are updated versions of A Christmas Carol, with Scrooge reimagined as a black woman. In both cases, the character's last name remains Scrooge, while her first name is changed (Ebenita in the '97 film and Carol here). They cast her relatively young, which I have no problem with: there's really no reason Scrooge needs to be as old as he's typically presented.

There are some other interesting concepts, as well. The movie incorporates quite a bit of Dickens' dialogue, though it's of course updated (the screenplay is credited to Dickens in what I hope is intended as a joke). The first section adheres relatively close to the original in content, excluding a quick preface showing "Jay Marley" die in a car crash (sans any footage of a damaged car, which would probably have been too costly). Carol, Jay's partner, is now a successful businesswoman in Las Vegas. There's a man named Fred who appears to either be an ex-boyfriend, a stalker, or possibly both. He tries to wish her a Merry Christmas, and they have a version of the argument Dickens' Scrooge had with his nephew. There's some clever reframing of dialogue here to both highlight the meaning of the text while also adjusting the context.

The scenes with the charity collector and Scrooge's assistant, Cratchit, are less successful, but there's a similar approach: the movie is trying to retain the core of the original while updating the setting. We then get a sequence not in the original in which Scrooge tries to collect money from a drug addict who's going through a difficult time. Scrooge is characteristically indifferent to her suffering and threatens to have her property seized if she doesn't get the money within the next twenty-four hours.

Next, we do the Marley visitation. This sequence is aiming for a modern horror vibe, but the budget just isn't there: the ghost looks like she's dressed for Halloween. Soon we meet the Ghost of Christmas Past, who teleports Carol to a breakup years earlier. In a bizarre movie, this might be the most bizarre sequence. A large portion of the flashback centers on a telephone call between the boyfriend and a mutual friend who set them up. The friend talks for an excruciating amount of time as he advises the boyfriend to break it off after Carol stood him up for a theater date involving $5,000 tickets (this number is cited multiple times). The actual breakup, in contrast, is brief and uneventful.

So, basically a radically transformed version of the scene between Scrooge and Belle, though the reason for the breakup here is Carol refuses to prioritize their relationship. That doesn't quite carry the same weight as valuing money over humanity, but sure.

Christmas Present drags her to watch the addict we met earlier overdose. Present is a very sadistic take on the spirit: he seems to enjoy the justice of making her suffer through this scene. She begs for him to do something and intervene, but he can't.

Future then... I mean... there's a cemetery. It's very dark. Like, really dark. Kind of a montage. If Carol sees her gravestone, it's not at all clear.

Then we're back in the present. Carol gets up, grabs her phone, apparently resolved to make amends and hopefully save the woman she saw dying. But Fred's waiting on her porch, and he shoots her in the head. Roll credits (and we already discussed how those went).

The hard part about trying to discuss something like this is not really understanding where this falls on the spectrum between "student film" and "full independent production." I'm not sure what the budget was, nor am I clear on what the intent was in producing this.

None of that impacts whether anyone should seek this out, but I think it's pretty clear I can't recommend this to anyone who isn't curious about the weirder elements. It does matter when we're talking about the quality, because there are elements here that are genuinely impressive if the crew is using this as an opportunity to learn how to make movies, but less so if we're comparing this against actual movies. There are shots and scenes that are competently conceived and staged, but there are many more that just aren't. There are also major errors in this, one of the most egregious being the sound mixing - I had to constantly turn the television volume up and down, as the levels fluctuated randomly.

I do think it's worth noting I enjoyed the lead actress, Sahara Prade's, take on Scrooge. She did a good job selling Dickensian dialogue in the present day, and that's no small feat. Most of the cast stumbled trying to pull it off, but she made it work.

Most of the rest of this is a mess. It hardly seems worth the trouble trying to parse out whether the character's violent death was intended as a refutation of the idea of rehabilitation and forgiveness, or if they just ran out of money or something. It could honestly be either or both.

Unless you're really curious about those end credits, I don't think there's any reason to try and track this down. And, again, that assumes it remains available: I can't imagine the credits thing will stay off Amazon's radar forever. And God help the producers if they neglected to clear the rights to a brand or song and the wrong lawyer notices....