Each Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) selects one dark soul to be reformed by a visit from three spirits. But this season, he picked the wrong Scrooge. Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) turns the tables on his ghostly host until Present finds himself reexamining his own past, present and future.
'The perfect Christmas movie doesn't exi….'
Spirited on AppleTV+ had my feet tapping and shoulders shimmying from the first musical number to the last, singing and dancing along to what I am pretty sure will become the Christmas soundtrack of 2022.
Directed by Sean Anders and written by John Morris and Anders, Spirited is a musical version of the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but with a twist.
The Christmas tale is told from the perspective of the ghosts, with Will Ferrell as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He and his team – Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) and Future (voiced by Tracy Morgan) stumble upon Ryan Reynolds' fast-talking Clint Briggs, a media consultant introduced trying to commoditise Christmas. They choose him as their next "perp," who, after a year of research and preparation, will get a Scrooge-like shot at redemption.
Let's first look at the musical element of this festive flick. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriting duo behind La La Land and The Greatest Showman, know their way around an instant earworm. So, it's no surprise that viewers will be delighted for two hours with joyful bangers like That Christmas Morning Feelin' and Good Afternoon and surprisingly emotional ballads like The View From Here.
It plays like a community theatre production of an original Broadway musical at times, but with some of the best background dancers perfectly placed to make Ferrell and Reynolds look like they belong there. The tuneful numbers burst with choruses of singers and dancers playing to one side of a set as if they're on a stage, which, okay, sometimes feels very one-dimensional but is easy to look past.
As for the storyline, Spirited is a clever twist on a very familiar tale that viewers are very often reminded of with references to previous Christmas Carol remakes that nobody asked for. But while there are some genuinely unexpected plot developments, and the world of the ghosts is often cleverly crafted, the one-liners are hit-and-miss. There are moments of sincerity that steal the spotlight and are enjoyable to watch, particularly when Octavia Spencer, Clint's PA Kimberly, is on screen. Still, the moment is ruined with a typical dumb Ferrell joke or snarky Reynolds remark. The comedic timing sometimes just confused the overall tone.
With all this said, this movie would not be what it is without Ferrell and Reynolds as the watchable and charismatic leading duo. Sure, their singing won't be winning any awards, but they really perform well together, even if they play the same character they've played in all their movies. I will say, though, that Spencer is underutilised in this film. She is fantastic and has so much more potential to be great in this movie, but she was just never given the space to shine.
Okay, so the perfect Christmas movie doesn't exist… but do Christmas movies have to be perfect? I enjoyed this film because it's the festive season, and there's just something about watching Ryan Reynolds sing and dance in a modern Santa Claus jacket. Don't judge me.
Spirited is a big-hearted but clumsy play on the Charles Dickens classic, with two of the most likeable movie stars alive. It is so very rough around the edges but, in the end, pretty easy to root for.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Sunita Mani, Patrick Page, Marlow Barkley, Tracy Morgan
Our rating: 3/5 Stars
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: