No Christmas would be complete without some Karen annoying the hell out of the community. Well, at least, that’s how things go in director/writer John Binkowski and co-director Lisa Enos Smith’s A Christmas Karen. Yes, this is another incarnation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as if we needed another rendition of that worn-out story.
Michele Simms plays Karen, a vicious, misanthropic, middle-aged, suburban woman who disdains every living thing. She throws a hissy fit when she doesn’t get her way. She demands that servers fix her coffee correctly on multiple occasions, ignores the needy and homeless, and calls the police on a little girl who is innocently selling hot chocolate. Her arrogant ways come to a halt when she is visited by her former dead boss and an additional three ghosts.
Karen goes through the different stages of her life with some thoughtful poise. We see that her past was lonely and traumatic, with parents that didn’t care about her. The ghost of Christmas present attempts to show Karen the people that she could potentially help, especially those who need it the most. In the future, if you haven’t guessed, Karen is witness to her ultimate demise and sees how few people care. The story follows the same structure as the classic novel. Anyone watching can predict what will happen. Sadly, that’s where the film starts and ends: with the same beats and plot threads.
“…a vicious, misanthropic, middle-aged, suburban woman…is visited by her former dead boss and an additional three ghosts.”
Let’s just get this over with. Shall we? A Christmas Karen is far from a classic. In fact, it’s nowhere near good. It attempts to blast itself into contemporary audiences by being set in the present day. That only does more harm than good. The sad fact is that the film lives in the shadow of its far superior predecessors. This iteration does too much talking and disposes of the heart, clever dialogue, and charm that the book had. On the bright side, the film does have a few decent performances from the supporting characters. However, they are undercut by the screenplay’s dull exposition.
The cheap, seed special effects only make matters worse. They look more nightmarish than entertaining. Seeing a CGI ghost lady crawl out of an oven or a ghost with their hair on fire is something that seems more laughable than respectable. The effects look like something out of a nightmare-filled theme park ride designed to scare families. It seems like Enos Smith and Binkowski had an excess budget, and they threw most of it into half-baked CGI.
A Christmas Karen is just another rejected Hallmark movie idea. It was produced solely for the pastime of the lowest common denominator when nothing else is on the television or is streaming that’s of interest. It’s currently free to watch on Pluto TV, and I can definitely see why that is the case. It might make a killing on VOD, but that is a very low standard to try and meet. Let’s just say that Charles Dickens is currently rolling in his grave because of this Christmas misfire.