The Man Who Invented Christmas review – bah, humbug!

This entirely terrible film feels about as Christmassy as watching England go out of the World Cup at the group stage. Dan Stevens – usually a likable and ingenuous screen presence – is horribly miscast and misdirected in the role of Charles Dickens in a kind of wacky and saccharine muttonchop-whisker-gawd-bless-yer fantasy-comedy of what it was like when he wrote A Christmas Carol and thus supposedly “invented Christmas”.

Dickens keeps bumping into people called “Marley” and “Copperfield” and nodding significantly to himself, occasionally writing in his notebook. The film suggests he wrote this Christmas tale out of the blue (in fact he had already written three other Christmas stories). We see him having lunch with his friend John Forster (Justin Edwards), getting exasperated with his Micawberesque dad John (Jonathan Pryce) and having hallucinatory conversations with all the people he’s dreaming up: including, of course, Scrooge, played by Christopher Plummer.

For a moment, it looks as if the film is rather daringly going to suggest that Dickens himself is morally flawed and must go through a Scrooge-like dark night of the soul, with a trip back to the blacking factory of his boyhood. But there’s no question of a real look at Christmas present for his friends and relatives, and certainly no Christmas yet-to-come when his marriage has collapsed. No: he just tends to give the fictional Scrooge a superfluous haranguing for being a skinflint. Not even a good cast can help a film as tin-eared as this.

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