Two Movie Reviews: Coco and The Man Who Invented Christmas

I took my nine-year-old granddaughter to see Coco last weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised. I went in not expecting too much (from what I had seen of the trailer), and was treated to a richly and beautifully animated film with extraordinary depth. Happily, it is devoid of the potty jokes that have become  the staple in recent animated films. Instead, it explores family loyalties, personal identity, ambition, and betrayal in a thoroughly engaging way, and yes, mush that I am, I was pretty choked up by the end. This movie has Oscar written all over it. That said, my only disappointment was the animated short that preceded it. We’ve come to expect little gems from Pixar–smart, quirky shorts that burst with creativity. Instead, we get an Olaf the Snowman (yes, from Frozen) cartoon that was dull and unimaginative. But don’t walk out! Stay for the feature! It’s more than worth the price of admission. I’ll be going to see it again.

Then I took my daughter to see The Man Who Invented Christmas. This is a delightful Christmas confection, purporting to be the story of how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol. I’m quite sure they played loose with the facts, but for any fan of Dickens, the film is pure pleasure. Dan Stevens as Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge could not have been better cast. We see Dickens haunted by his characters, who refuse to behave as Dickens would have them. As a writer, I especially liked the way Dickens is portrayed as “trolling” for ideas, paying attention to the people and conversations around him, writing down names that he likes in his notebook, jotting down turns of phrase to use later. Reading A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition for me, along with watching an assortment of Christmas films. (How can it be Christmas without Chevy Chase and Ralphie and the Muppets?) Anyway, I’m sure I will add this film to my collection for viewing again next Christmas.

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