Christmas gets started way too early for me most years, but nevertheless the holiday themed movies are happy to take to the masses in hopes of getting the spirit going. Yet the definition of the modern Christmas we celebrate can be traced to legendary author Charles Dickens who made the timeless classic A Christmas Carol. Such an epic story is stemmed in the spirit of giving, hope, and redemption, a symbol that we aspire to hit and often not succeed. Where did the inspiration come from though? How did he get the ideas? I don’t know, but the movie I’m reviewing tonight attempts to answer that question in an entertaining manner. Robbie K here sharing his opinions on The Man Who Invented Christmas starring Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer.
The World: If you read my reviews, you know I’m a big fan of world building and settings. The Man Who Invented Christmas recreates the nostalgic world of 19th century London and all the class that once inhabited the world. Seeing the society of the times reemerge from the London fog brought a homey feeling to me, invoking the beginnings of the Christmas season in a world that once treated as a minor holiday. The attention to detail is astonishing, primarily in all the chaotic organization that was Dickens’ life, primarily the study to where he pondered all his works. It is this factor that will pull you into the movie as the stage continues to unfold.
Clever Presentation: When attempting to answer how Charles got his motivation and do it in an entertaining manner, the team has to think outside the box for this one. The Man Who Invented Christmas managed to do this quite well in most manners, primarily in rendering his thoughts as personified beings, capable of interacting with him. His conversations with the characters is a creative representation of the stresses of his mind and how they influence the progression of the story. And very much like a scene out of Slum Dog Millionaire, the movie was able to also bring his supposed history into the mix to also motivate moments of the book. Much of it was predictable, but it was a nice homage to his life that filled in the gaps I had forgotten.
The Acting: By far the best element for me though is the acting held in this movie. The secondary characters do their part in serving as obstacles, motivations, and support for Dickens himself, especially his best friend and his father. Yet, the main piece to watch are the characters of Scrooge and Dickens himself. Christopher Plummer still has life within his older bones, playing the pompous Englishman to the letter. He captured all the quips, jabs, and sarcasm of the character and managed to get that bitter attitude toward life. Yet, Plummer also got the humorous part of the role down pat, almost like a rival/mentor showing tough love to accomplish the task. As for Stevens, his portrayal of the talented writer with the obsession for perfection was fantastic. Stevens managed to take the dual role of Charles Dickens and personify the internal struggle that was his life as he pursued his muse of an epic story. All the anger, frustration, and joy were quite balanced in this movie, hooking me into his life and keeping me in my seat until the final sequence faded to black.
Scene Placement: The movie does a nice job filling in the gaps, but at times I didn’t enjoy the placement of the scenes. Mainly the flashback scenes, much of Dickens’ past was scattered through this movie, dropped at odd moments that offset the momentum of the sequence. Some of these moments could have been better delivered at earlier moments, and may have minimized the confusion of why he was so angry. Not sure whose direction it was to place things in this order, but it didn’t work for me at times.
Background Characters: As you watch his story progress, you get to see new characters emerge as his world starts to motivate him to write. Yet unlike Scrooge, with whom he constantly interacts with, many of the other characters are just background bodies who smile, laugh, and kind of look odd. Sure, I understand the personification of what they mean during his writer’s block and how they were connected to his central character, but why did they remain constantly in the background? I don’t have those answers, but it was kind of odd having them randomly walking around with him and doing little past that. Sorry guys, not a fan of limited use characters.
The diluted emotion: I expected the movie about the guy who revolutionized Christmas to be a little more emotionally charged. Sadly, this film didn’t quite pack the holiday joy and magic that his tale was able to elicit long ago when I watched the Muppet version long ago. While inspirational, I didn’t get overwhelmed with feelings that made me embrace the holiday season. I felt this was due to some of the movie magic being left out of the movie, giving it that realistic twist, but unfortunately drying up the specialness those hokey, overdramatic effects bring to the table. This tale would have benefitted from a page in the Hallmark channel book in terms of motivating you to inherit the spirit of Christmas.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is an immersive film that uses setting, presentation, and incredible acting to bring the 19th century to life. Despite all the cool insights into Dickens’ life though, this movie lacks cinematic magic, logical use of characters, and pacing that is important in films. This movie could have done well on a television release, or streaming movie rather than a theater presentation. It does hold potential for a church outing, but this reviewer recommends holding out until it comes to home viewing.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 7.0