Ebony Scrooge (Williams) is one of the world's most successful pop singers. However, with her cold-hearted soul and nasty attitude, she lacks a great deal of holiday cheer and makes her manager Bob anything but happy.
While in New York for a charity concert, Ebony (who was once part of the 1980s trio "Desire") is visited by the ghost of one of her former singing partners, Marli Jacob (Thomas), who died in a car crash in 1990. She tells Ebony that she was unhappy with her for willingly abandoning her during her struggles with her drug addiction which ultimately led to the car accident that killed her. She also mentions that God knows Ebony took advantage of Marli's death to plot her solo career and the fact that she is using the charity concert as an excuse to fatten up her own wallets. Because of it, Marli is still earthbound and in chains, and warns Ebony of a similar doom. Marli tells her that she will be visited by three spirits: Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, who will hopefully turn Ebony's life around.
The Ghost of Christmas Past (Kathy Griffin) shows Ebony her tragic past with her abusive alcoholic father, and how she became the cold person she is today because of it. The only person that made her feel loved was her brother, Ronnie, and even he was trying to be positive for their family, which continued even after the two were removed from their father's custody and split up in foster care. It was also revealed that even though Ebony had been adopted into a nice family, she had refused to visit her father, whom she has never forgiven for the abuse he put both her and Ronnie through. While Ronnie tried to give their father a second chance, he soon learned that she had been right about their father not having changed his ways after he began drinking again during Ronnie's visit one Christmas, and left home for good. Ronnie later married and had a daughter named Olivia, before dying of a sudden brain aneurysm. Ebony had a relationship with Bob, who was a DJ at the time, and he was considering marrying her before she coldly broke up with him. Ebony had worked well with Desire until her coldness caused rifts, which, along with Marli's drug problems, eventually broke up the band. Before leaving her, the ghost takes Ebony to Terry Freeman, Desire's other singer and Ebony and Marli's once close friend, who is now destitute and impoverished due to Ebony having both abandoned her following Marli's death and crushed her financially in a lawsuit regarding the "Desire" name. The ghost confronts Ebony for how she treated Terry over the years and that she should never had abandoned her friend when she needed her.
Ebony then finds a wild party in her suite by a heavy metal dude who is The Ghost of Christmas Present (John Taylor), who shows her how she is overworking Bob and her crew. She comes to learn just how much her band really hates her and insults her behind her back. Ebony shows sympathy and concern for Bob's ailing son Tim, slowly realizing just how strained his relationship with his family is. The ghost also shows Ebony that her accountant Ernie is spending his Christmas with his girlfriend, and how he's been able to pay for his lifestyle by secretly stealing money from her accounts over the years. This angers Ebony because Ernie was supposed to be her trusted accountant, and also makes her realize why he's always insisted on her staying on a tight budget – the less she spends, the more he can steal from her. The Ghost then takes Ebony to the apartment of her estranged niece, Olivia. Olivia tells her husband and friends that despite Ebony's cold attitude, she still loves her aunt. Ebony starts regretting her past treatment towards Olivia, now realizing that she is the only living blood relative she has left. Lastly, Ebony meets the homeless people her concert is supposed to benefit, but whom she's never interacted with. The ghost shows her how they appreciate Christmas despite having nothing. At this point, she starts to see everything in a new light and feels terrible in the way she that mistreated Olivia, Bob and her band. Before leaving, the Ghost warns Ebony of the two main killers that could destroy her own life: Ignorance and Greed. Ebony reluctantly allows Bob to fly home to be with his family.
However, the last spirit (Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come) is the one that gets through to Ebony. The Ghost is depicted as a miniature television showing a tragic episode of Behind the Music, which depicts many artists such as Brian McKnight commenting on the life and death of Ebony Scrooge. Her former bandmates use the show to air out their grievances about who she really is inside and ruining her public image in the process. One of her disgruntled former back up singers, Tina, theorizes that Ebony had planned to get destroy Desire by letting Marli die from the drug overdose so the former could take advantage of it and chart her own solo career. Despite defending Ebony by debunking Tina's theory, Bob reveals how much he couldn't forgive her for making him work on Christmas that led to both Tim's death and his wife, Kelly, divorcing him, it breaks her heart. It is also revealed that she died flat broke due to both Ernie draining her finances and her own career floundering in her last years. Ebony also discovers that Olivia was the only person who attended her funeral, while everyone else benefitted from her death.
After learning her lesson, Ebony opens her heart to Christmas once again. During an interview, she mentions that she will do all she can to help the homeless and is open for options to alleviate the stress of poverty. She hires a chef to make a lavish Christmas dinner for her crew, and encouraging them to invite their families by providing plane tickets for them. When Ernie tries to remind her of the budget, Ebony makes him help pay for the tickets after learning of his embezzlement. Ebony reconciles with her niece, Olivia, who reveals her pregnancy, and invites Terry to perform with her. She allows Bob to go on vacation with his wife and has Tim taken to the best hospital in New York for treatment. At the beginning of her concert, she fires Ernie and has him arrested for his embezzlement by the police and his girlfriend, who turns out to be an FBI agent. Marli, now wearing angelic robes and her appearance restored, watches Ebony and Terry reunite and perform "Sleigh Ride", an old song of theirs, and Ebony briefly sees her applaud before she departs for Heaven. A year later, Ebony greets Bob and Kelly, along with a healthy Tim, as they go to baptize Olivia's daughter. She has also reconciled her friendship with Terry in the hopes they could reform Desire together, allowing Marli to rest in peace.Vanessa L. Williams – Ebony Scrooge
Rozonda Thomas – Marli Jacob
Brian McNamara – Bob
Kathy Griffin – Ghost of Christmas Past
John Taylor – Ghost of Christmas Present
Amanda Brugel – Olivia
Stephanie Biddle – Terry
Richard Jutras – Ernie
Linda Goodwin – Kelly
Michelle Lipper – Tina
Amy Sloan – Patrice
Henri Pardo – Matt
Christian Paul – Lance
Warren 'Slim' Williams – Ebony's Father
Vanessa Williams sang the songs for the movie's soundtrack, including the original songs "Heart of Christmas" and "Heartquake" (featuring Rozonda Thomas). She also sings a remake of the 1948 holiday classic "Sleigh Ride".
In the American Dad! episode "Hayley Smith, Seal Team Six", Steve Smith references the film and even sings an altered line from "Heartquake", changed to be about cheesecake.
VH1 Behind the Music is the Ghost of the Future, so seeing the tragic death and everyone shows them how much she leaves behind.
Paramount Pictures released the film on DVD in Region 1 on November 19, 2002.