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Movie Review – The Man Who Invented Christmas

This charming little film does a nice job ushering in Christmas time at the theaters. I really don’t know how much of this movie was fact or fiction concerning the character of Charles Dickens. In the movie, one moment he’d be in a screaming rage, and the next, a funny, engaging fellow. I think in today’s terms he’d be considered bi-polar. I did enjoy the rambling conversations he’d have with the characters from his book, although it might be said that he didn’t have a firm grip on reality. Ultimately, I found The Man Who Invented Christmas heartwarming, whimsical, and just a bit humorous.

Of course Christopher Plummer made the movie, with his biting humor and sarcasm. Scrooge has been portrayed by who knows how many actors, and I’ve seen at least 10 versions of A Christmas Carol, but Plummer, hands down, is the best.

Dan Stevens owned the role of Charles Dickens. I loved him in Downton Abbey, where his charm made many female viewers tune in every week, and happily, he brought it here.

I don’t know if TMWIC will become a seasonal favorite, but for this year it has become mine.

And really, who cares if Charles Dickens had a few character flaws?

Movie Grade – B

Movie Review – Wonder

This is a cute little film with an important message about acceptance, tolerance, compassion, and friendship. It doesn’t try too hard, and rocks along rather gently for almost two hours. Normally I cry a lot during sad movies, and at heartwarming movies too, but this one didn’t toss any low blows at us (except possibly the dog part, but Wonder didn’t rub our noses in it, so to speak). Anyway, I didn’t cry, which was nice.

It does present a lot of stereotypical “heartstrings” moments, though. At times it plodded a bit, and I felt like the producers ran down a checklist of sad/uplifting scene points. The story was often workman-like, and often dull when it veered away from Auggie to land on Via, or anyone else. I’ll call it padding. I do understand about being the normal but “ignored” kid, and her tale will probably ring true to anyone growing up with a special needs sibling. So perhaps it’s a needed element.

Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson were fine, but rather wasted — Wonder doesn’t need star power in these kinds of fungible parent roles.

The movie shone most brightly when it focused on Auggie. Jacob Tremblay really made the most of his part, and I completely bought into him as a bright, funny kid with a severe facial deformity. But, as the other child said, you stop seeing his face as weird after a while. And that’s exactly as it should be.

The most difficult moment of the film showcased Julian’s parents: his mother was a piece of work. What happens when you call in the adults to meet the principle  — about your child being a bully — and get told the bully is acting appropriately? That they support their son being an a$$, because they feel the deformed child should not be around to disturb the normal kids? Even Julian, to his credit, was appalled at his parents’ attitude. People like this exist. It pissed me off, and the feeling is that it’s supposed to.

Finally, the “action piece” at the end could have gone very, very wrong, and I was afraid something terrible would happen, as is the wont in this kind of picture. Thankfully, no; I didn’t have to leave the theater bawling.

Lightweight fare, but a pleasant way to spend a few hours. Good family film — “tushie” jokes are as crass as it gets (in other words, it’s not crass at all). This is pure character cinema, with no action, and no plot beyond the premise of “deformed child makes friends in public school.”

Good, but not great. My suggestion is to wait for the DVD, unless you really enjoy these kinds of movies, relate to the premise, or are seeking something to take the whole family to for an easy evening out.

Movie Grade: B –