There have been numerous TV, film and stage adaptations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” over the years. None have combined as much charm, warmth and holiday spirit as Bharat Nalluri’s “The Man Who Invented Christmas.”
OK. Before you start shouting “Bah, humbug,” this technically isn’t a direct adaptation of the well-known story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim and those three ghosts that Dickens wrote in six weeks in 1843. This version has blended the novella with biographical material to look at the journey Dickens made from being mired in a writing funk after three flops to creating one of the greatest pieces of literature.
Dan Stevens, who has shown great range in such movies as the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” and thought-provoking “The Ticket,” plays Dickens. It’s a demanding part as the character goes from an international celebrity to a man wrestling with soul-wrenching demons. The story suggests Dickens had such a vivid imagination that his characters would spring to life as soon as he found the proper name for them.
Stevens handles every challenge, even when Dickens appears to be on the verge of madness as he allows himself to be judged by the characters that he has fashioned in his mind.
His companion on the quest to finish the book is a manifestation of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), who serves as both a writing guide and as a personification of all that Dickens sees as wrong with the world and himself.
Plummer turns in one of the most entertaining versions of the character ever played, crafting a Scrooge with a black heart and one who, like Dickens, has finally faced his demons.
Most of Nalluri’s recent work has been in TV, and that shows: He doesn’t try create a large and bustling London, but one that feels more claustrophobic. He has lined the streets with all social levels of people who are united by one thing: a passion for the writings of Dickens.
“The Man Who Invented Christmas” deserves a place in the annual TV showings of “A Christmas Carol,” not only because it offers a fresh look at the familiar ghost story, but also because it has a lot to say about the innate good in humans. God bless the filmmakers, one and all, for creating such a treat.
‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’
Rated PG for thematic elements, mild language.