My family likes movies. We enjoy watching them together. In fact, every Friday night in the Davis household we deem “movie night,” complete with popcorn and M&M’s. (Now when it comes to finding an appropriate family-friendly film, that’s another story for another blog.)
On rare occasions, when the movie is right and when the budget allows, we will take our children to the theater to see a film on the big screen. The experience itself is a treat for our seven-year-old, while our three-year-old is more enthralled with the extra-large tub of popcorn and overpriced – I mean, oversized – box of candy.
Either way, movie time means family time for our crew.
We, along with other families from AFA, recently had the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of The Man Who Invented Christmas, set to release in theaters nationwide this Wednesday, November 22 – just in time for the holidays.
Derived from a popular book by the same title, The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the story of “how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and created a tradition.”
The movie opens with Dickens on a tour in America enjoying the success of his earlier writings. Sixteen months later, he finds himself back in London and in debt, his most recent novel a dud. Fearful of ending up in a debtor’s prison like his father, Dickens is determined to write a new book that will be loved by all and ultimately end his financial woes. But he is plagued with writer’s block, and his circumstances are not conducive to writing.
At his wit’s end, Dickens decides to write about Christmas, even though Christmas was not a major holiday in London at the time. His publisher rejects the idea, but Dickens is determined to write and finish the book by Christmas. Unable to find anyone to give him an advance on the book, he decides to finance it himself, which only puts him in greater debt. Then out of nowhere, his estranged father shows up bringing the struggles of Dickens’ miserable childhood to mind.
Plagued by his past, preoccupied by the present, and fretful over the future, Dickens embarks on a magical writing journey that mixes “real-life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today” and in turn changing the lives of so many, including his own.
The overall response to the film from our AFA families was a positive one. Many left saying The Man Who Invented Christmas was clever, entertaining, well done, inspirational, humorous, warm, interesting, creative, delightful, heart-warming, encouraging, and insightful.
Others expressed their concerns that it was slow moving, hard to follow, confusing, and not for young children.
Much like A Christmas Carol, The Man Who Invented Christmas does have dark parts to it as the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future are introduced and as we see Dickens wrestling with personal struggles that are played out through the character of Scrooge. There is a grave scene toward the end of the film that was particularly bothersome to my seven-year-old. Other thematic elements, including scenes of children working under cruel conditions in a factory and a harsh and hateful confrontation between Dickens and his father, also make the film more suitable for older children and adults.
The film is rated PG for thematic elements and some mild language including what AFA noted as one use of God’s name in vain, an abbreviated reference to jackass, one use of d-mn, and occasional uses of bloody. Drunkenness is also shown for laughs.
While the film is clean compared to most that come from Hollywood and does have some redemptive elements to it including the themes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and generosity, The Man Who Invented Christmas implies that a person can change his own heart apart from Christ. Those who are believers know that to be unbiblical. Although the film is not intended to be a faith-based film nor is it expected to have a biblical perspective, it still sends a message about salvation and conversion that is wrong and misleading.
Yet at the same time, because it is a beautiful rendering of a beloved story, it will likely become a new Christmas film enjoyed by many because it hinges on the selfless claims of Dickens himself: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”