The Man Who Invented Christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas ★ 1/2

In this age of superhero cinema, Charles Dickens receives his long-overdue origin story in Bharat Nalluri’s The Man Who Invented Christmas, which circumvents the visually boring act of setting quill to parchment by dramatizing Dickens (the ubiquitous Dan Stevens, who’s appeared in five movies and starred in a TV show this year!) as a seeming schizophrenic who’s visited by the characters from A Christmas Carol as he writes them. That’s right, he’s treated to visions of and conversations with the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Jacob Marley (Donald Sumpter) and even the Ghost of Christmas Past (Anna Murphy), each of whom turn up like, well, the ghosts in his novel as the cash-strapped author works out the kinks of his story in the scant weeks it takes him to craft it. The film was adapted from a book by Les Standiford, and I can only imagine that the screenplay by actress Susan Coyne (Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle) has taken a few liberties with Standiford’s nonfiction text. A tale like this requires not only a light hand—which Nalluri possesses—but also a stylized visual sensibility. On this last count, the film falls flat, feeling more like a budget-rate TV movie than the cinematic piece of fictionalized history it begs to have been. Still, Plummer’s scrappy Scrooge is worth the price of admission alone. (At Boston CommonKendall Square and West Newton.)

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