Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas

On television, stage, and in film there have been plenty of adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol over the years (Mickey Mouse and Bill Murray have provided two of my favorites). The latest from director Bharat Nalluri and screenwriter Susan Coyne, based on Les Standiford's book, doesn't add much new to the proceedings, but proves to be an enjoyable holiday romp focused on the turmoil in Dickens' (Dan Stevens) life and the creation of one of his most famous works. The script follows a familiar path seen before with authors talking directly to their characters and stealing names and lines from real-life to work into their writing. The later reminded me of Shakespeare in Love, which had far more wit than we find here.

The main takeaway of the movie seems to be that Dickens had as much Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) in him as Bob Cratchit, and only by coming to terms with the fact was he able to finish the book that had ties to his own troubled upbringing. Stevens is likable enough in the role, with serviceable support from Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Morfydd Clark, and others while the movie brings Victorian London, and various Dickens' characters, to life.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a new entry in a well-worn genre. It's unobjectionable holiday fare that entertains without asking much, if anything, from the audience. Given its attempts to bring some history to its fictionalized account, I would have appreciated more explanation on the effect of Dickens' work other than a sentence or two of text directly before the end credits. Stronger historical context, and better framing of just what the story meant to so many, would help immensely in explaining the film's title (which is, surprisingly, mostly an afterthought).

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