(director: Bharat Nalluri; screenwriters: Susan Coyne/based on the book by Les Standiford; cinematographer: Ben Smithard; editor: Jamie Pearson/Stephen O’Connell; music: Mychael Danna; cast: Dan Stevens (Charles Dickens), Christopher Plummer(Ebenezer Scrooge), Jonathan Pryce (John Dickens), Ger Ryan (Mrs. Dickens), Morfydd Clark (Kate Dickens), Miriam Margolyes (Mrs. Fisk), Simon Callow (Leech), Miles Japp(William Makepeace Thackeray), Justin Edwards (John Forster), Donald Sumpter (Jacob Marley), Ian McNeice (Chapman), Bill Paterson (Mr. Grimsby), Anna Murphy (Tara / Ghost of Christmas Past), Cosimo Fusco (Signor Mazzini); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Robert Mickelson, Ian Sharples, Susan Mullen, Niv Fichman, Vadim Jean; Bleeker Street; 2017-Ireland/Canada)

A lighthearted and sentimental holiday film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lighthearted and sentimental holiday film. It’s a take on Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. Adapting Les Standiford’s 2008 biography is screenwriter Susan Coyne and director Bharat Nalluri (“Miss Petticrew Lives For A Day”/”The Crow – Salvation”). It’s told in a simple and fictitious way, which doesn’t dampen the film experience for me but neither does it excite me. The story picks up in 1842, with the self-centered 30-year-old Dickens on a speaking tour of the States after his hit novel of Oliver Twist. A year later, while back in Victorian London, the author publishes three flops. When he tries to publish a Christmas book, he’s turned down by his publisher. But the author confers with his friend and agent, John Forster (Justin Edwards), and publishes the book on his own. Suffering from rising debts and a writer’s block, with Christmas only six weeks away, the author is suddenly inspired by listening to folklore tales from his new maid (Anna Murphy) and from characters envisioned such as the crotchety old miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) he meets in a graveyard. During this trying time frame Charles must deal with the pregnancy of his loyal wife (Morfydd Clark), taking care of his four youngsters, the noisy workmen repairing his house and the unwanted arrival of his friendly but dead-beat loan seeking estranged dad (Jonathan Pryce) and mom (Ger Ryan). The author, because of their visit, is reminded of his impoverished youth, where he worked in a boot-blacking factory and was abused. To finish his novel, the author must also overcome his inner demons. When finished, the author must visit his solicitor and others to raise the money to pay the famous illustrator Leech (Simon Callow) and get the book printed before Christmas. The rest, of course, is Christmas history, as the popular book reminds us to ask what is the meaning of Christmas, something beforehand that got lost through the years.

REVIEWED ON 11/26/2017 GRADE: B-