There have been so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol over the years that a film about the book’s creation seemed a no-brainer. However, I suppose The Man Who Invented Christmas could be considered a “version” of the classic story itself, as in some ways Charles Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) story mirrors that of Ebenezer Scrooge. The movie isn’t exactly subtle about it either; Dickens is frequently visited by his miserly creation (Christopher Plummer), as well as the four ghosts, most of them made to look like people Dickens has encountered.
Indeed, subtle isn’t the right word to use for The Man Who Invented Christmas. It sadly doesn’t include the famous story about Dickens misreading a grave to come up with his main character’s name, but there is a sequence where Dickens hears a man talk about the “surplus population”, then sees two children resembling Ignorance and Want, then comes across an unmourned death. Scrooge represents Dickens’ dark side, and his redemption means Dickens’ own, which is more or less firmly said in the film’s finale.
That is not to say this makes it a bad film; the original Christmas Carol wasn’t exactly all that subtle itself, after all. The film still manages to be fun and festive, capturing some of the holiday cheer of the original novel. Stevens is a delight to watch as Dickens, and Plummer is a fantastic Scrooge. Like Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation, along with Donald Sumpter as Marley, who I would have liked to see more of in this film. The film has some creative ways of bringing the ghosts to life, as it were, like making the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come a gigantic, gangly figure that creaks when it moves.
On a side note, Plummer also appears as King Herod in this year’s The Star and the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, and voiced Barnaby the crooked man in an animated adaptation of Babes in Toyland, so he’s an actor who’s played Scrooge among other Christmas villains. The only other actor I can think of off-hand who can also boast that is Jim Carrey.
The Man Who Invented Christmas isn’t perfect, but with its fine acting and visuals, it’s a good film if you’re looking for something to get you into the spirit early.