Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Movies

If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

The last thing this world needs is another rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, likely the most remade, reimagined and ripped off literary property ever.

At the same time, the world would be poorer without seeing Ebenezer Scrooge interpreted by Christopher Plummer, an actor if not born to play the role then certainly, finely aged into it.

Plummer, soon to be 89, gets his chance in Bharat Nalluri’s The Man Who Invented Christmas, a movie also managing a welcome fresh approach to Dickens’ sentimental perennial. At last, the author takes center stage in his story, played charmingly by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens.

Using the fanciful aspects of Les Standiford’s well-researched book, Nalluri retells Scrooge’s tale in swatches paralleling the author’s creative process. Reality, memory and developing fiction entwine in Susan Coyne’s adapted screenplay, its magical realism a bit forced at times but always enchanting.

Dickens’ own past and present inform his book in surprising ways, pointing him toward posterity yet to come. His own financial straits after a string of literary flops inspire a story of money’s lesser importance than love. A pained childhood missed by Dickens’ wastrel father (Jonathan Pryce) haunts the author like one of Christmas’ ghosts.

Bluffing his way to a deadline, Dickens frantically searches for a story idea. Names like Marley and Fezziwig are heard and jotted for later. A moonlit graveyard paints a setting in Dickens’ mind; a scowling mourner sets the image of Scrooge. For a while, Tiny Tim will die.

Best of all, there’s Scrooge hectoring the blocked writer who’s word-wrestling with a voice in his head, a verbal amusement never fetching too far. Plummer’s dryly venomous line readings meet Stevens’ deference to amusing effect.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is Hallmark-card lovely to behold, with Nalluri’s team taking fine advantage of Victorian designs, fashion and snowfalls, framed with style by cinematographer Ben Smithard. Mychael Danna’s musical score occasionally hits the right sentimental notes when least needed, but, hey, it’s Christmas.

Coyne’s screenplay pays cursory attention to key reasons behind Standiford’s title. Christmas was indeed a wretched holiday in Dickens’ poverty-plagued time, and A Christmas Carol did become the first must-have gift for the occasion in 1843. The author invented holiday consumerism that doesn’t make for feel-good entertainment. Or haven’t you seen Jingle All the Way?

The Man Who Invented Christmas is good at its feel-iest, a beloved but stale tale retold with novelty while revealing an interesting rest of the story. Let’s hope it becomes a perennial like so many versions before, with Plummer’s Scrooge as a yearly gift.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

 

Review

The Man Who

Invented Christmas

Director: Bharat Nalluri

Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes, Donald Sumpter, Justin Edwards, Morfydd Clark, Ger Ryan

Screenplay: Susan Coyne, based on the book by Les Standiford

Rating: PG; brief language, scary images

Running time: 104 min.

Grade: B

Comments
Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic creature feature The Shape of Water soaked up seven Golden Globes nominations Monday, kicking off another marathon awards season. The Shape of Water is nominated for best dramatic motion picture alongside Christop...
Published: 12/11/17
‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War-era fairytale "The Shape of Water" swam away with a leading seven nominations from the Golden Globes, while the HBO drama "Big Little Lies" led television nominees with six nods. In what’s being viewed as a wide-open Osc...
Published: 12/11/17
Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Hollywood is backloading December, waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to bring moviegoers back to multiplexes. After no major releases last week, only James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is making any new impression at box offices this weekend. (Cli...
Published: 12/06/17
Olaf is being let go: Olaf short is being dropped from Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Olaf is being let go: Olaf short is being dropped from Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Winter is still weeks away but everyone’s favorite snowman is already melting from view.In a cruel twist on Frozen’s showstopper, Olaf is being let go.Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the 21-minute animated "short" preceding Disney-Pixar’s Coco in theaters w...
Published: 12/05/17
‘The Disaster Artist’ takes us inside ‘The Room’ as it notoriously happened

‘The Disaster Artist’ takes us inside ‘The Room’ as it notoriously happened

James Franco found a kooky, kindred spirit in Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist whose 2003 cine-trocity The Room is hailed as one of the worst movies ever.Like Wiseau, Franco can be accused of stretching his talent way too far. Unlike Wiseau, Franco ...
Published: 12/04/17
That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

For a few bewildering days, R. Presley Stephens thought his Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival would welcome a notorious celebrity.The fourth annual shoestring cinema showcase runs Thursday through Sunday at Britton 8 Theater, 3938 S Dale Mabry High...
Published: 11/29/17
What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

NOW IN THEATERS: COCO Disney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good ...
Updated one month ago
If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

The last thing this world needs is another rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, likely the most remade, reimagined and ripped off literary property ever. At the same time, the world would be poorer without seeing Ebenezer Scrooge i...
Updated one month ago
‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ is a sad waste of Denzel Washington

‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ is a sad waste of Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington’s labored portrayal of a shambling legal savant named Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the least of the movie’s worries. This is a story of shifting ethics that should be dramatic, but shaky logic prevents that from happening.Dan Gilroy’s f...
Updated one month ago
‘Last Flag Flying’ is kind of a puzzling follow-up to 1973’s ‘The Last Detail’

‘Last Flag Flying’ is kind of a puzzling follow-up to 1973’s ‘The Last Detail’

Richard Linklater called 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! a "spiritual sequel" to his last-century breakout Dazed and Confused. Different characters, same youthful, life-exploring vibe.Linklater’s latest, Last Flag Flying, can be considered a spiritual ...
Updated one month ago