Humbug. Isn’t it weird that when people hear that word many automatically think of Christmas? Isn’t it also weird that what’s basically a ghost story has become one of the most beloved classics of Christmas? It’s hard to understate the influence Charles Dickens’s classic tale A Christmas Carol has had over the centuries, but it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Christmas probably wouldn’t have been the same without it. The Man Who Invented Christmas gives us a peek behind the scenes into what it took Mr. Dickens to get this beloved tale published in the first place. While it may not be an entirely historical account of the story’s origin, and though it may be a bit shallow in general (there are many areas where I would have enjoyed digging deeper into this tale), it is a delightfully fun, entertaining and often emotional journey into the creative writing process in general and the creation of A Christmas Carol in particular.
Perhaps the greatest charm of this movie is how it shows us what the creative process can be like for a writer. Throughout the movie, we encounter moments and people and statements that all inspire elements readers know so well from the actual story. Then, we see these inspirations come to life in Charles’ imagination, which gives the film a wonderfully whimsical feel. As a writer myself, I could perfectly relate to seeing Charles sitting in his study, surrounded by characters in the story, bickering back and forth with them about why the story wasn’t working, and ultimately lamenting to a friend that he’s struggling because he can’t get his characters to do what he wants. I’ve been there, and it was a lot of fun to actually see that writer’s block moment represented in such vivid fashion on-screen. It’s also fascinating to get sense of just how many other obstacles Charles had to overcome to get this story published. It’s so hard to imagine Christmas without A Christmas Carol that it’s weird to think there was a time where people couldn’t understand why there was a need to publish a book about Christmas in the first place.
Of course it’s his seminal creation, Ebenezer Scrooge (performed wonderfully by Christopher Plummer), that gives Charles his greatest inspirations, his biggest challenges, and even his most harrowing revelations. Scrooge is more than just a character in Charles’s story; in his own unique way, he becomes the catalyst for not only his eventual salvation, but Charles’s as well. The journey of creating A Christmas Carol becomes more than just the creation of a story, it becomes a journey of reconciliation for Charles with his own dark and frightening past. It’s the delicate intertwining of Charles’s personal journey with the journey to creating his story that gives this film its emotional core, and while either one would have provided enough material of its own for a film, having them unfold in parallel with each other perhaps tells the more complete story.
Truth is we all have parts of our past that we’d like to forget, or pretend isn’t there. The problem is, the past never really goes away. However, the good news (which Charles eventually comes to realize) is that our past doesn’t have to define us. No matter how dark or hideous the stain of the past may have left on our souls, it doesn’t have to remain there, defining who we are. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that stain, that blot on our soul that lingers from our past, can be washed away. We can be made new, and defined not by who we were in our past, but who are and who we can our Savior, Christ the Lord.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Christmas wasn’t considered a “major” holiday, or when A Christmas Carol wasn’t apart of Christmas. While we only get hints of what London was like before Charles Dickens “invented Christmas,” we do get a good sense of why this book was not only so important to him, but to the resurgence of the holiday season as well. Certainly those who are familiar with the book will find lots to enjoy in this movie as they get to see the inspiration behind the story’s iconic moments, but even those who aren’t as familiar with it will find plenty to enjoy. This is the type of movie that makes you smile and fills you with the holiday spirit. It’s the antithesis of the bad Santas and bad moms Christmases and the bad office parties and all those other “bad” Christmas celebrations. This is a Christmas movie that rediscovers the uplifting meaning and joy that should be a central part of the holiday season. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a delightful new Christmas classic that lends context and insight to one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time.
Score 6 of 7: The Man Who Invented Christmas is a fun, entertaining, emotional, and more importantly, uplifting peek behind the scenes of one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. The trend of late has been to make “Christmas comedies” that generally just make you feel awkward and uncomfortable, it’s nice to have one that does what I think what Christmas movies are really supposed to do; leave you feeling merry and bright.