As the Christmas season rolls around, that can only mean one thing.. streaming services rolling out their yearly dump of Christmas movies! Netflix and Halmark in particular make an abundance of Christmas movies each year, but it seems that not only does Apple want a stake in the game but they’re willing to go all-out with the star-studded film Spirited – a modern riff on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that stars the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. What sets this adaptation apart from the numerous other attempts at the story? The film takes place in a world where Jacob Marley (Patrick Page) runs a spiritual organization dedicated to haunting and, hopefully, redeeming one person each year with the The Ghosts of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), Present (Will Ferrell), and Yet To Come (Tracy Morgan) still continuing to take on each years’ jerk. However, Present runs into a professional social media manipulator named Clint (Ryan Reynolds) and chooses him to be this year’s target. And from that point forward the story goes more or less how you’d expect, with a few riffs and changes along the way.
If the first thought that came to your mind when reading the synopsis was that it feels a bit tired and stale – it’s true! There is some undeniable mileage on this story, no matter how much the cast and crew try to make it feel different from the original material and modernize it. However, Spirited still finds a way to mostly work with a few key ingredients. The first of which is the pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, who very naturally play off of each other and work wonderfully together. Reynolds continues to play the signature asshole pretty well, and Ferrell charms as the undeniably sweet and maybe even naive Present. While the combination of naive optimist meets cynical asshole is undeniably a tired trope, the two find a way to make it charming and genuinely funny at times.
Another big plus for the film is that of the musical numbers. Before watching the film, I truly had no idea that this was going to be a full-out musical at points, and I was absolutely delighted that not only are there legitimately impressive set-pieces and musical numbers that impressed me in terms of visuals and choreography, but the music is.. actually good? Maybe there’s nothing Oscar worthy about each individual song, but they’re all genuinely catchy and exciting pieces of music that are performed pretty nicely. Some of the songs are played for laughs, and others are genuinely sincere – and I thought both worked in equal measure.
There are some undeniable issues with the film such as it being a tad bit overlong at nearly 130 minutes and sometimes when it aims for chartering into serious, dramatic territory it doesn’t always work – but the film does a pretty good job at recovering from those issues fairly quickly due to the charm of it all. Reynolds and Ferrel are simply too good of a pairing together to resist, and when you mix that together with a light-hearted Christmas musical, it’s pretty hard to deny that it’s simply an extremely entertaining movie that most will enjoy. I had a great time with it.