The Man Who Invented Christmas

Two real life things kind of cracked me up when it came to this movie. When there’s a mention of Charles Dickens novel “David Copperfield” I thought about President Bush grabbing women’s behinds during photo shoots. And when a perfectly cast Christopher Plummer shows up, playing Scrooge…I couldn’t resist but lean into my wife and say, “I bet Kevin Spacey has dreams where Plummer is Scrooge, too.”

For those that don’t know, Plummer is taking over the part Spacey had and has been edited out of in All the Money in the World.

As everyone knows, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the most well-known Christmas stories, and has been adapted many times; being a kid in the ‘70s, my favorite version is the Bill Murray movie Scrooged.

Many of the scenes were beautifully shot, but a handful of them had a cheap look and it felt like a lightweight, TV movie.

The picture reminded me of the recent Goodbye Christopher Robin (about the writing of Winnie the Pooh), and the much better Shakespeare in Love. We watch as Dickens is inspired by everything around him to write his masterpiece, coming after Oliver Twist and then three flops.

It’s a lot more fun in these movies if the references aren’t right in your face. A more subtle approach would’ve worked better than, say…seeing an angry Scrooge at Marley’s funeral, walking by him and saying “Humbug!”

In this story, Dickens (Dan Stevens) is running some debts, and is trying to get an advance from his publishers. He ends up self-publishing, and that entails a few other problems. He needs a printer, an illustrator, another loan…and to get this thing out before Christmas.

His muse becomes a young servant from Ireland (Anna Murphy). Unfortunately, this is all just a fictional biopic, so most of what you see never happened.

There are some interesting scenes with his father (perfectly cast Jonathan Pryce); some that have them clashing, some that are heartwarming.

The relationship with his friend that has a fiance…never pans out properly.

There were scenes with snow, storefront windows, and horse-drawn carriages…that had a joyful quality I wanted more from with this movie.

It has its heart in the right place, but most kids will be bored by it. And there’s only so much interest adults will have spotting the various references.

The crowd I saw it with at the Angelika Film Center seemed to like it a lot more than I did.

2 1/2 stars out of 5.