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The Man Who Invented Christmas - Movie Review

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The Man Who Invented CHristmas - Movie Review

3 starsOne of the literary world’s great moral fables is the subject of The Man Who Invented Christmas, a delightful little film that covers the inspiration and creative process behind Charles Dickens’s writing of A Christmas Carol. Though Dickens didn’t actually invent Christmas, his novel was released around the time that the holiday was experiencing a rebirth of sorts, and his tale of family, redemption, and goodwill was, without a doubt, a major influence on how we now look at Christmas some 175 years later. How’s that for lasting impact of one’s work?

Much in the same way that 2004’s Finding Neverland (and more recently, Goodbye Christopher Robinson) sought to bring to life the creative process and environmental inspirations behind some of our most memorable stories, The Man Who Invented Christmas focuses on the six-week period during which Dickens wrote, self-published, printed, and distributed his story about Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the other classic characters from A Christmas Carol.

As the film opens, we meet Dickens (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) as he is finishing up his packed-house tour of America following the wild success of his latest work, Oliver Twist. Fast forward eighteen months or so and we join a blocked writer whose career may be in jeopardy as his lavish lifestyle, followed by three subsequent flops have him on the verge of bankruptcy.

With publishers backing out and Christmas but six weeks away, Dickens takes the risk on a new story idea he sets around the upcoming holiday. We follow the writer as characters, places, and observations in his own life in London begin to form the backbone of the story that would, in very short order, become A Christmas Carol.

The biggest challenge of bringing an artist’s story to life on the big screen is in translating the creative process into something we want to watch. In other words, how do you make what is going on inside a person’s head interesting? Director Bharat Nalluri and screenwriter Susan Coyne (from Les Standiford’s book) pull it off by showing how Dickens uses his everyday encounters on the London streets – or even in his own home – as inspiration for the story’s characters. Bits and pieces of dialogue and unusual names are picked up here and there, then jotted down to eventually be woven into his story. A chance encounter in a cemetery with a doddering old codger dressed in black forms the origin of Ebenezer Scrooge himself (Christopher Plummer).

On the home front, Dickens’s life is as complicated and confused as ever – hardly an environment conducive to creativity, especially so under such a tight deadline. With the house undergoing a noisy renovation, and with Charles’s father now living in the household, the author is forced to retreat to his cluttered study to rifle through the scribbled sheaves of manuscript.

As quill touches paper, Tiny Tim, Fezziwig, the Cratchits, and all the other little rascals come to life and carry on in cantankerous banter. Dickens playfully interacts with his fictitious characters, all the while, the hunched-over author scribbling like mad. The book hardly writes itself, however, as a wicked case of writer’s block sets in while he struggles for days with the story’s ending. Childhood memories of toiling in a rat-infested factory carry over to make up some of A Christmas Carol’s darker elements while Nalluri and Coyne ratchet up the creep factor by the visits from ghosts of past, present and future.

There are really no unexplored messages buried within the frames of The Man Who Invented Christmas other than those it shares with Dickens’s classic novella. And though breezy, and playful with a lightness of heart, nor is it a film likely to become a seasonal classic we cue up every year. But it works fine enough as a companion piece to any of the umpteen iterations of A Christmas Carol out there. And darned if it doesn’t do a great job of reminding us that Christmas is not only a celebration of the birth of Christ, but a season in which to embrace the Christmas spirit of sympathy and compassion.

The Man Who Invented CHristmas - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and some mild language.
104 mins
: Bharat Nalluri
Susan Coyne
Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce
: Biography | Drama
The Man Who Invented Christmas.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm looking for a reason not to need."
Theatrical Distributor:
Bleecker Street Media
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 25, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

No details available.

The Man Who Invented CHristmas - Movie Review

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