The Man Who Invented Christmas

This sentimental biopic, covering the period in Charles Dickens’s life when he wrote and published A Christmas Carol (1843), is most engaging when it dramatizes his writing process (collecting names for characters, drawing on personal experience to invent complications for his story). As the author, Dan Stevens hits the right note of wonderment to convey an artist in love with his work; less successful are the passages wherein Dickens has imaginary conversations with his characters and grudgingly hosts his layabout father. Screenwriter Susan Coyne, adapting a book by Les Standiford, plays these scenes for featherweight comedy and then for schmaltz, as Dickens realizes how much he adores all the people (real and fictional) in his life. Director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) maintains an oppressively cutesy tone—the film is as sweet and heavy as egg nog. With Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes, Jonathan Pryce, and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge.