The Man Who Invented Christmas (3 stars)

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Dan Stevens is Dickens and Christopher Plummer Scrooge in an imaginative if twee festive film

The title might be misleading ('popularised' is probably more accurate), but there's no denying the joy-to-the-world sincerity of this family friendly festive offering, which takes an imaginative look at the inspiration behind Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Based on the non-fiction book by Les Standiford, the film begins with a down-on-his-luck Dickens (Dan Stevens) in desperate need of a hit and suffering from crippling writer's block after three consecutive flops. His fortunes change when the character of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) pops into his head and begins haunting his waking life, offering pointers as the new book begins to take shape. Meanwhile, pressure mounts on the author with his wife Catherine (Morfydd Clark) expecting their fifth child and his flighty father (Jonathan Pryce) arriving for Christmas, triggering traumatic childhood memories.

Stevens delivers an energetic turn as Dickens, remaining sympathetic even when ignoring the troubles of those around him – to that end, the script's cleverest touch is to suggest that Dickens has to conquer his own Scrooge-like tendencies in order to finish the book. Plummer, for his part, was born to play Scrooge and delivers exactly the performance you're hoping for, relishing every 'humbug' like a fine wine. There's colourful support from the likes of Justin Edwards as Dickens' exasperated agent and Miles Jupp as rival author William Makepeace Thackeray, who can't resist taunting Charles about the failure of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Director Bharat Nalluri (Spooks: The Greater Good, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) does a decent job of ticking the necessary feelgood boxes, while mostly keeping sentimentality levels in check. However, his film does occasionally get a little carried away with itself in the tweeness department, particularly when various hallucinated characters are left standing around with nothing to do. That said, there are ample compensations, especially for those unfamiliar with the more interesting biographical details, such as the fact that Dickens wrote the novella in six weeks, or that it was rejected by his publishers (thinking there was no market for a Christmas book), forcing him to publish it himself.

General release from Fri 1 Dec.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • 1h 44min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
  • Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow, Donald Sumpter, Miriam Margolyes, Morfydd Clark, Justin Edwards, Ian McNeice, Bill Paterson
  • UK release: 1 December 2017

Charles Dickens (Stevens), down on his luck, is in desperate need of a hit when Ebenezer Scrooge (Plummer) pops into his head and starts offering pointers. Decent if occasionally twee adaptation of Les Standiford’s non-fiction book, with Stevens being sympathetic and energetic and Plummer clearly relishing a chance to do…