I intended to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas in theaters all last winter during its initial release in theaters, but missed it. My interest was only middling at the time, but it received strong reviews and I was confident that it would be a fine film. The subject is compelling. Set some years after the early success of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (played by Dan Stevens), hasn’t had a hit book in years. Many are quick to remind him of this, including William Makepeace Thackeray, humorously portrayed in this film as snide and gloating at every opportunity. Dickens’ run of flops hasn’t stopped him from spending, or rather, his family from spending, and now he’s at the point of desperately needing a successful book, but what should he write about? With Christmas approaching, Dickens has an idea for the basis of what would become his greatest hit: A Christmas Carol. The Man Who Invented Christmas follows his struggles in writing the novella and getting it published, while dealing with his peddler father returning for the season and the stress from the immense pressure he’s under. This Christmas film covers a lot of ground, and does so admirably. Flashbacks show Dickens separated from his family and sent to the workhouses. We also get an entertaining glimpse at what Dickens’ writing process might look like. As he works, he interacts with his prospective characters, mainly Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Christopher Plummer).
Unsurprisingly, this is a warm, well-acted affair; a good story, well told. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s an engaging bit of fantasy. While showing how Dickens and his novel impacted Christmas convincingly, I’m less sure about The Man Who Invented Christmas’ own status as a Christmas classic. Will we be watching it ten years down the line? Could it be some family’s Christmas tradition? Perhaps. I wouldn’t write it off. It’s a good movie. I just don’t think it’s a great one.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-