Plot: After a whirlwind of success, fame, and riches, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is fresh off a trio of flops and feels blocked. His financial situation is trending downward while his expenses head upward, so he needs to come up with a new book, one that will break this recent slump. But his creative energies are stagnant, a situation not helped by constant disruptions, stress over money, and of course, constant reminders about how poorly his latest books were received. As he tries to juggles of his issues, he begins to be inspired by the Christmas season, as well as the people around him, some of whom aren’t pleasant folks to contend with. He sees the miserly nature of some people and the endless optimism of others, but it is the former that sparks his first new character, a bitter old man named Scrooge. But those interruptions and his own inner doubts stir up all kinds of obstacles, all while he has mere weeks to finish the book if he wants it on shelves by Christmas. His bold approach forced him to front the money himself, so if the book is unfinished or is another flop, he will be ruined. Now Dickens must dig deep to find the rest of his story, or risk losing more than he could ever imagine.
Entertainment Value: As a big fan of Charles Dickens, I couldn’t wait to see The Man Who Invented Christmas. As it turns out, the movie is a broad, often slapstick look inside how A Christmas Carol was created. I know a more realistic take wouldn’t be cinematic dynamite, but I don’t think this narrative needed to be as heavy handed and wacky as it winds up. The movie in essence makes Dickens look like maniac who happens to stumble backwards into this timeless tale, with little of the end result being due to his skills as an author or storyteller. I’m sure Dickens, like most writers, was inspired by the world around him, but here, he just slaps together whatever elements cross his path, then hopes it works. I think it does Dickens a disservice and kinds of insults the creative process, but it is a sugary comedy, not a grounded drama. As you’d expect, it piles on the sentiment at times and twists Dickens into a real life Scrooge in the works, then hopes for some good cheer when the schmaltz kicks in. The emotion feels forced and unearned, but at least some of the humor works, mostly when Dickens interacts with the various characters in his mind. The cast is passable, but I didn’t love Dan Stevens’ wild, manic take on Dickens. He plays the role as the script dictates, so he seems like a clueless, quite lucky fellow who falls into great stories. But the highlight of this movie is Christopher Plummer, who shines as Scrooge. In a slapstick, broad movie, he plays a reserved, down to earth Scrooge and nails the role. It is a shame the rest of this movie isn’t up to the same standard as Plummer’s performance. In the end, this movie isn’t terrible, but it isn’t that good either, leaving us with a mediocre at best experience. Unless you’re hard up for Christmas movies, you can skip this one.
No nakedness. A couple of sly innuendos, but that’s all. If the rest of the comedy was as subtle as those innuendos however, this could have been a much funnier, smarter movie, I think. No blood. No real violence is involved, so it makes sense that no blood would be present. The dialogue is watchable, but a lot of the humor is so broad and obvious, it lands flat. The writing tries really hard to balance slapstick humor and emotional resonance, which is a tough combination. The end result is inconsistent humor and rather forced emotional beats, neither of which seem to be effective in most scenes. Scrooge is given most of the effective lines and in truth, his dialogue works because it is more subtle, especially as delivered by Plummer. He is the most grounded part of the movie and by far, the best part as well. In terms of craziness, the movie does take a manic, slapstick approach, but it never feels out of control. Just silly, so no real stretches of wild moments or the like. I wouldn’t call it grounded, but it follows most of the slapstick comedy guidelines.
Overall Insanity: 0/10