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The Man Who Invented Christmas
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Man Who Invented Christmas is a fictionalized take on how English author Charles Dickens came up with A Christmas Carol. Dickens (Dan Stevens) is desperate for a story idea when a series of strangers, relatives, and friends inspires him to write about miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), a character whose presence begins to invade Dickens' life. There's little iffy content aside from a use of "ass" and a few possibly disturbing flashbacks to when Dickens, as a child, is forced to work in a factory after his father is imprisoned, as well as a scene in which a rich man tells Dickens that poor folks should hurry up and die since they don't serve a purpose in society. Ultimately, the film expresses the same sentiments as the classic story -- about Christmas being a perfect time to show compassion, empathy, charity, and generosity.
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What's the story?
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS is a fictionalized drama about legendary author Charles Dickens' possible real-life inspirations -- and motivations -- for writing the classic story A Christmas Carol. It's 1843, and 31-year-old Dickens (Dan Stevens) hasn't had a commercial success in several years; he's facing a personal financial crisis after three critically panned books. So he decides to write a Christmas-themed book after encountering various strangers -- including a waiter named Marley, a greedy businessman, and a dry-eyed elderly man (Christopher Plummer) who says "humbug" at his business partner's funeral. When Dickens fails to secure a publisher (one says the book won't be profitable because Christmas is a "minor holiday"), he decides to seek financing to self-publish. On a tight six-week deadline, Dickens begins to see the characters as memorable strangers and loved ones alike, with Scrooge (played by Plummer) popping up in his head and defending his miserly positions until the novella is done.
Is it any good?
This is an entertaining, well-acted biographical drama about what could have inspired A Christmas Carol and how the classic novella changed the spirit of the season. Stevens effectively portrays Dickens, who memorably captured the holiday's ethos of altruism and generosity. Young and ambitious, this version of Dickens needs a critical and commercial hit, and, after drawing on the examples of real-life Scrooges -- as well as his own sweet and disabled nephew -- the English author knows his Christmas tale has real potential. Stevens gives a stand-out performance, as do Justin Edwards as Dickens' loyal best friend and agent, Plummer as the real and imagined Scrooge, and Jonathan Pryce as Dickens' kind but spendthrift father, John.
There's a heartfelt Wizard of Oz-type quality to The Man Who Invented Christmas, as audiences discover which real-life figures in Dickens' life ended up depicted on the page. When Dickens' sister, brother-in-law, and nephew visit, it's clear that the sweet, sickly, disabled boy is Tiny Tim. The boy's father even lifts him up exactly as Bob Cratchit does Tiny Tim in every illustration and film adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It's Plummer, of course, who has the most to say and lobbies to remain unredeemed in the end. It's a good thing Dickens decides to listen to his early readers -- like his young maid, Tara, a natural storyteller who begs him to give Scrooge and Tiny Tim a happy, hopeful ending. Thanks to Scrooge's turn of heart, Dickens saves his career and, if we're to believe the film, Christmas itself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why A Christmas Carol is such a holiday classic. What makes it so enduring? Which film adaptation of the story do you enjoy most? Why?
According to The Man Who Invented Christmas, which aspects of Dickens' life influenced the plot and themes of A Christmas Carol? How accurate do you think this version is?
What does the movie reveal about the writing process? What did you learn about Dickens' life that you didn't already know?
- In theaters: November 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: March 6, 2018
- Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce
- Director: Bharat Nalluri
- Studio: Bleecker Street
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Holidays
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Integrity
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and some mild language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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