I think that it is safe to assume that everyone knows Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but how many know the story of how it was created? A better question at this point would be how many people care to hear the story about how one of the greatest stories came about? One studio is hoping that there are quite a few of you out there as they bring us “The Man Who Invented Christmas”.
Dickens (Dan Stevens) having already given the world “Oliver Twist” is searching for his next great story after three not so successful ones. Dickens is feeling the pressure to support his growing family and the status of creating something great, and all the expectation that comes with it. It’s at this point that he starts to piece together a story about a scrooge of a man who only cares for his money. The story is to be set during Christmas, with the only thing missing being the characters who would fill that world. It is when he comes up with Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) that the story starts to take shape. Dickens who sees inspirations all around takes words and names he hears for his characters and their phrases. Slowly the story starts to come together, but it is a change in Dickens own life that inspires the ending of one of the greatest stories ever told.
The idea of telling how this story came about sounds like a wonderful concept and you feel with the right actor playing Dickens it could work. While I feel writer Susan Coyne wanted to create a magical world to capture Les Standiford’s novel, only she falls pretty short. This telling of how we got something so beloved has to somehow get close to what inspired it in the first place. Instead we are given a dark and grumpy version that while it tries to mirror the story it is trying to create it feels like a failed version of it. Stevens is really the only bright spot, as his charm gets him through in a film whose tone never feels quite right. There was so much potential with this and if they had chosen to make it fun and light they would have reached the heights they so wanted. The feel of the trailer is what this film should have been, but that is not what we get and that is a disappointment that is hard to get past. So, save yourself that feeling and instead honor the source material with your favorite telling of that story (even if it’s the Muppet version), because if you see this the only thing you would say is ‘bah humbug’.