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The Man Who Invented Christmas **


Irony: A movie about the creation of a Christmas classic isn’t very creative at all. 

Is it worth $10? No 

There are many problems with “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” and the first is its title. It rings false. You hear/see it and immediately think it can’t possibly be true. We learn director Bharat Nalluri is trying to suggest Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” created Christmas as we know it. That’s fine, but “Christmas as we know it” is darn different from “invented Christmas.”

The film endeavors to show Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) inspirations for the novella, and the hardships he faced in getting it done. For absolutely no good reason the movie starts in 1842 New York City, where Dickens is on a promotional tour. From this prologue we learn that Dickens is a popular writer. If you didn’t already know Dickens is a popular writer, you should go to high school. He did invent Christmas after all.



Three flops and 16 months later, it’s October 1843 and Dickens is short on cash with a wife, Kate (Morfydd Clark), four kids and a house full of family. His father’s (Jonathan Pryce) a moocher, Kate’s pregnant and he clearly picked a bad time to renovate the house. His only friend is John Forster (Justin Edwards), who also appears to be his agent, manager and lifeline to the outside world. Later, Forster is the inspiration for the ghost of Christmas present.

With his publishers not trusting him after poor sales for “Martin Chuzzlewit,” Dickens decides to self-publish his next book, “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.” The problem is he has a mean case of writer’s block, and inspiration comes and goes. Worse, most times when he is being productive he’s annoyingly interrupted.

This isn’t good, and I don’t mean just from Dickens’ point of view. The film’s best scenes come as Dickens imagines Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Jacob Marley (Donald Sumpter), etc., and so when his writing is interrupted so too are the movie’s most enjoyable moments. Sometimes writers (screenplay by Susan Coyne) and directors can’t get out of their own way, and this certainly qualifies.


Outside of Dickens’ imagination, which includes conversations with Scrooge, he also gets ideas from the world around him. Names, people and situations will ring familiar for those already acquainted with “A Christmas Carol,” and these knowing moments comprise the film’s charm. But cumbersome subplots, including Dickens’ irresponsible father and troubled childhood, do little to accentuate the main story, and as a result the entire narrative exists in tedium.

Finally, and ironically, for a movie allegedly about the invention of Christmas there’s not much Christmas here – those expecting yuletide merriment based on the title will be sadly disappointed. On the other hand, if you weren’t expecting yuletide merriment because you went to high school and think the movie is about a famous writer, you’ll only be mildly disappointed.

Did you know?
“A Christmas Carol” was published Dec. 19, 1843, and was sold out by Christmas Eve that year. By the end of 1844, 13 editions had been released. The book has never been out of print.

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