Author Michael Arceneaux attempted to create a definitive ranking of every A Christmas Carol remake—until he realized the VH1 movie starring Vanessa Williams is the only one that actually matters. Here’s why.
Recently, Toni Braxton starred in the Lifetime film Every Day Is Christmas. In it, Braxton played a money manager named Alexis Taylor, a workaholic who can’t stand love and is far more fixated on “the mu-mu-muny, yen and the pesos” (there’s always room for Nicki Minaj references, folks) than anything else. This is much to the detriment of her employees and everyone else around her, minus her driver who is secretly wishing to date her. Ultimately, her rude self gets visited by a few spirits from various time periods who basically scare her into being a better person. If this sounds familiar, yes, it is inspired by the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.
I love Christmas programming, and despite her blocking me on Twitter without cause, I adore Braxton (a diva and national treasure, whom I consider the Shug Avery of R&B—a compliment). I watched it, and, unfortunately, Every Day Is Christmas wasn’t it, y’all. It wasn’t even a fraction of it. Like, Toni Braxton sings like Anita Baker and wants to marry Birdman of Cash Money Records fame. In other words, there’s a lot of personality to work with here, and yet, this movie was sort of sedative in its presentation. It wasn’t horrible, but it lacked oomph.
Again, I’m a sucker for Xmas (I didn’t take the Christ out of Christmas, just Google it) and I’m into A Christmas Carol in general, so I’m always intrigued whenever anyone tries to recreate the tale. Actors will always look for an easy check, and couple that with Hollywood’s disinterest in new ideas, and this story will be redone again and again and again. Perhaps, one day, some creative will try to deliver the film equivalent of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (as in a modern Christmas classic), but until then, here we are.
In hindsight, as much as I love A Christmas Carol, I’m realizing that many have failed miserably in their attempts to create a new spin that’s worth a damn.
Much like Entertainment Weekly writer Mary Sollosi’s attempt last year, I went into this piece looking to do a ranking of the best versions—only to realize many of them were so-so or flat out sucked.
So-so spins of the classic tale would include Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which might have been all the rage when I was a kid who mostly consumed chicken nuggets, but now I’m a thirty-something man who still eats a lot of chicken nuggets, but also has a heightened palate in terms of entertainment consumption. In other words, Mickey Mouse could have tried harder.
To be fair to Mickey, at least he tried harder than that terrible animated version with Tim Curry from the 1990s, or that other 2000s animated version with Nicolas Cage—but neither stepped it up like Miss Piggy in The Muppet Christmas Carol. (If you’re a cartoon or puppet-like thing, look to Miss Piggy for guidance when recreating Dickens’s story.)
If you’re a human, there are really only two other options to model your film after. You could turn to Bill Murray, whose film Scrooged, was pretty good. Yes, I’m complimenting a cisgender heterosexual white man at the end of 2018 in this political climate, but it’s the holidays. I’m feeling festive and generous.
Bill Murray did much better than, say, Kelsey Grammer, who made a musical version of A Christmas Carol in 2004. I still haven’t forgiven Frasier for what he did to Camille Grammer on the inaugural season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but I revisited clips of that mess for this assignment. Let’s just say forgiveness will take even longer now.
When it comes right down to it, the only person who matters in the context of A Christmas Carol—outside of Charles Dickens himself, the dearly departed—is Vanessa Williams.
If you have never seen A Diva’s Christmas Carol, it’s time to atone.
In the 2000 film, Williams plays Ebony Scrooge, an international pop star that wouldn’t spit on her BFF if she was on fire.
It features Chilli from TLC, Kathy Griffin, and other people whose names I’ve forgotten, though it doesn’t matter because it’s all about Vanessa Williams. It originally aired on VH1, so it was full of pop culture references, music, and, more importantly, has Vanessa Williams. Let the record show that not only is A Diva’s Christmas Carol the best spin on A Christmas Carol—it’s one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time (I hope you didn’t hear that in Kanye West’s voice since he’s on the naughty list).
While I cannot share the bootleg of A Diva’s Christmas Carol posted on YouTube, I can strongly encourage you to search your channel guide and set your DVR if you’ve never seen it. Or use your friends’ passwords to stream it—whatever it takes. Just treat yourself to its splendor.
And for those of you who still seek to recreate A Christmas Carol, please try to be more like Vanessa Williams. You’re welcome.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of the recently released book I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.