Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Justin Edwards, Morfydd Clark, Donald Sumpter, Miles Jupp, Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes, Ian McNeice, Bill Paterson, Anna Murphy
Written by: Susan Coyne, based on a book by Les Standiford
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and some mild language
Running Time: 104
Date: 11/22/2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ghost of a Chance

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In a year filled with writer biopics, The Man Who Invented Christmas takes a refreshingly simple, lighthearted approach and comes out as something lively that could easily be enjoyed annually at holiday time. This is not surprising, given that director Bharat Nalluri also made the equally delightful and old-fashioned Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008). Dan Stevens has ranged from serviceable to bad in many films this year, but here he practically tingles with energy as Charles Dickens. His last three books (Barnaby Rudge, American Notes, and Martin Chuzzlewit) have flopped, his debts are increasing, and he's stuck for what to do next. As if by divine province, he meets several folks, including a lone miser (Christopher Plummer) in a graveyard, and gets the bare-bones idea for what would become A Christmas Carol (published in 1843). As he feverishly works, his deadbeat father (Jonathan Pryce) comes to stay and interrupts him, a helpful housemaid (Anna Murphy) gives him some pulp literature, and imaginary versions of the characters hang around his study, alternately helping and bickering. The movie isn't the slightest bit concerned with being "based on a true story." It keeps up a whirl of color and cheerful spirit and ends with a brief but believable argument full of good cheer and goodwill toward men.

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