Review: ‘The Man Who’ over-explains ‘A Christmas Carol’

Dan Stevens plays Charles Dickens in ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas,’ which tells of ‘A Christmas Carol’s’ creation

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
“The Man Who Invented Christ­mas” stars Dan Stevens, left, and Christopher Plummer.

Bah, humbug.

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” is the story of Charles Dickens and how a crippling case of writer’s block and a pile of mounting debt led to the creation of “A Christmas Carol.”

As a biopic, it’s standard issue stuff, and Dan Stevens gives a flat, risk-free performance as Dickens. Director Bharat Nalluri mixes fact and fantasy and has his Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) live out a version of the tale, but its telling lacks the magic and whimsy that make “A Christmas Carol” so timeless.

The film opens in 1843, when Dickens is the toast of London. Three flops later he’s nearly out on his can, and with another child on the way, he needs to come up with something that hits.

He finds inspiration in the people around him, who become the characters in what will eventually become “A Christmas Carol.” Oh look, a boy on a crutch: why, that’s Tiny Tim!

This version of events tends to over-explain the inspiration behind the story, undermining the genius of Dickens as an author. Was he a guy who was in the right place at the right time to chronicle the characters and events that would make up his tale, or was he a creative mind with an active imagination at work? “The Man Who Invented Christmas” leans toward the former, shortchanging its hero in the process.

Further, the film attempts to explain that the modern celebration of the Christmas holiday is largely credited to “A Christmas Carol,” though it doesn’t sufficiently make the argument. Show, don’t tell: any author — Dickens especially — would tell you that.


(313) 222-2284


‘The Man Who

Invented Christmas’


Rated PG for thematic elements and some mild language

Running time: 104 minutes