The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG)

Starring Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast) and Christopher Plummer (If you have not seen Remember (2015), I seriously recommend you do so.), and inspired by the work of Charles Dickens, The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the story of how Dickens challenged himself to write and put the much beloved classic, A Christmas Carol, into print just six weeks before Christmas. Dickens’s story, published just days before Christmas in 1843, popularized the Christmas holiday in Europe.

There are (at least) five versions of A Christmas Carol from 1938, 1951, 1984, 1999 and 2009, along with A Muppets Christmas Carol, A Christmas Carol: The Musical, the animated Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (one of my personal favorites), and many, many other variations of the story. I would only be guessing, but I would be willing to bet that A Christmas Carol is one of the most often told and/or reinterpreted stories of all time. (Apologies. I don’t have time to google that right now.)

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a welcome addition to this group of films, as it focuses on Dickens as he conceptualizes A Christmas Carol, and turns the events surrounding the inspiration for the characters into its very own Christmas tale. This movie pays great homage to the original by drawing parallels between the life of Dickens and, perhaps his most infamous character, Ebenezer Scrooge. This is a must see for anyone who has read the book, or enjoys any of the older movies.

Brilliantly written by Les Standiford (book) and Susan Coyne (her first movie screenplay), we learn a lot about Dickens’s life and morality, his family and his writing process. His writing process actually becomes a main character. Anyone who has every suffered from writers block will enjoy the ways Dickens finds inspiration in everyday life, names and develops characters, awakens from sleep in the middle of the night with ideas running through his head that must be written out immediately, works out the direction of the story, etc. The story is mostly light-hearted, mostly energetically told and quite humorous at times. The writers found the perfect balance between a Dickens biopic and the fairy tale qualities of A Christmas Carol, as the characters and story come to life in his head and he becomes consumed by it all.

The acting is solid. Christopher Plummer has a lot of Scrooges to compete with, and he doesn’t disappoint. He is the penny pinching, mean old man we love to hate, until he changes his heart, and then we don’t hate him any longer. Dan Stevens as Dickens gives a stellar, endearing performance of a man who is under unbelievable pressure to produce a masterpiece on a deadline. You will feel his inspirational moments and root for him to succeed even though you already know what happened.

The score, set design, cinematography, costumes, hair and makeup, all come together to complete the execution of a beautifully told story.  I found myself smiling for at least 25 minutes of the last half hour as I was transported back to my childhood watching Reginald Owen (1938 version) and Alastair Sim (1951 version) as Scrooge. To see these characters brought to life felt magical, which is a rare cinematic experience these days.

The Man Who Invented Christmas earned 9 out of 10 bloops. It isn’t easy to take such an old, often told story and make it fresh but this team really pulled it off in excellent fashion. It joins the ranks of great holiday classics and I will absolutely watch it again.  It is a charming family movie to kick off the holiday season properly. If you belong to that family that likes to go to movies on Thanksgiving or if you get a chance over the weekend, go see it and enjoy.

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 Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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