Did you know that the famed novella, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, is actually a shortened version of its original title? A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas was the original title published in December of 1843. That’s more of a synopsis than a title. And in a similar fashion, at least in terms of character count, The Man Who Invented Christmas is also quite the mouthful. Can the biographical drama provide a Yuletide treasure to the big rush to theaters this Thanksgiving long holiday weekend?
Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is in the middle of a literary slump of sorts, as his last three novels tanked. Now, feeling the pressures of self-doubt and failure, Charles must regain is his form if he is to maintain the life that he and his family have become accustomed to. This may be easier said that done with all that Charles is juggling. He’s in a financial crisis as well as a family crisis thanks, in part, to his father (Jonathan Pryce) showing up during this inopportune time. All of the stress leads to a mental breakdown of sorts (or is it?) that causes Charles to start seeing, and interacting with, strange characters throughout is daily life. The centerpiece of these imaginary characters is a grumpy old man named Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). The words that Charles is furiously writing basically leaps off of the paper and into the room in front of him. Through teaching Ebenezer the meaning of Christmas, Charles discovers what the spirit of Christmas is all about and also saves his career in the process of becoming a better father, husband, friend and author.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is a magical tale that is meant to tell, albeit in an entertaining way, how a British author penned, arguably, the greatest Christmas story ever told. Most “Christmas Carol” movies that we have seen in the past have dealt with the fictional characters we come to know. This movie also deals with the creation of said characters and that’s what sets this story apart from the rest. Dan Stevens is a frantic mess at times but his heart is always in the right place…mostly. This has been quite the magical year for Stevens’ since he also starred in the live action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017). In this one he gets a better chance to showcase all of his skills. Christopher Plummer totally sells the grumpy old man persona. He’s super Scrooge-y.
The overall likability is only lukewarm at the end of the day. While the plot is compelling in an origin story kind of way, it sputters about while trying to make all of the connections it needs to make while balancing what is happening in both the real world and the one that resides in Dickens’ head. The Man Who Invented Christmas gets high marks for attempting to make this a fun family film but, just like with Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), I don’t see how younger audiences will find enough entertainment to warrant sitting through this movie. Critics will enjoy this movie for the story it tells but parents hoping to take their kids to a fun magical holiday movie might be a bit disappointed, especially if these are small children. The Man Who Invented Christmas is better suited for adults that have the patience to see how the pieces come together to create a single work of art. Embrace the Christmas spirit in theaters now.