The Man Who Invented Christmas
Starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce,
In the same way Goodbye Christopher Robin explores the origins of Winnie the Pooh, The Man Who Invented Christmas takes us behind the mind and methods of Charles Dickens formulating his great masterpiece. Dan Stevens, most recently seen in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, doesn’t seem quite ready for leading man status. The 35-year-old British actor can’t find the correct fusion of sympathy and eccentricity to pull off the complicated author. It’s no surprise that Oscar winner Christopher Plummer is the film’s highlight. Plummer who is the man of the hour, broke news and barriers coming into replace Kevin Spacey in the already completely Ridley Scott film, All the Money in the World. While the film justifies its existence by offering the audience a behind the scenes look at a beloved literary classic, it doesn’t offer much else.
In 1842 Charles Dickens (Stevens) was basking in the glow of his success with Oliver Twist. However, from celebrations in New York, to three flops later back in London, fleeting fame was costing him and his family. Desperate for another hit, Dickens looks inwards at his anger towards a swindling father (Pryce), backwards to a difficult childhood (not that different from his Oliver Twist character) and then forward to the man he might become. “Once you get the name right, the character will appear,” Dickens says as Ebenezer Scrooge (Plummer) materializes literally in his office. Each character of the forthcoming Christmas Carol book begins to hound the stressed author to finish the book before December 25th.
Outside Plummer’s cantankerous interjections as a figment of Dickens imagination, there are few other characters or performances of note.
While the film beats as a slow pace, it’s got good intentions, even if they are not as evident as the comedic bits. While the actual invention of Christmas is quite a stretch and certainly not formally addressed in the film, audiences will gain insight into how the writers own troubled history influenced the story. For most of the film Stevens flounces around on screen like he’s imitating Jack Sparrow. For an actor who’s typically cast as the suave leading man, prince or villain, Stevens exhausts the viewers tolerance for his presence. Director Bharat Nalluri (MI-5, Miss Pettigrew) doesn’t understand how the long beats of the film grow tiresome for the audience when Stevens becomes tiresome. Outside Plummer’s cantankerous interjections as a figment of Dickens imagination, there are few other characters or performances of note.
While the film is certainly a drama that borrows heavily on Disney’s model of “family entertainment”, the suspense lies too simplistically in the race to deadline. “The characters don’t do what I want,” Dickens admits near defeat. The lesson that Dickens is going to learn by the conclusion of the picture, becomes very obvious when his wife delivers lines like, “Your own characters mean more to you than flesh and blood.” Indeed, The Man Who Invented Christmas does turn out much like you expect, despite taking its leisurely time to get there. Compared to Bad Mom’s Christmas or Daddy’s Home 2, this film certainly comes out on top as far as holiday themed films are concerned, but by no means more important than catching some of the more prestigious awards season flicks.
Arguable casting choices, reckless editing and still this is likely the best holiday themed film of the year.