Ferrell and Reynolds both feel the holiday sprit in this fun musical comedy.
The story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has been transcending in various versions on TV and in theaters. You know the story. The rich and grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge is all “Bah Humbug” about the holidays, and on Christmas Eve, he’s warned by his deceased ex-partner Jacob Marley that he will be visited by three spirits, who give him a personality check. The Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (or Future as we like to call him/it) all manage to change the old man’s life.
“Scrooged,” “Flintstones Christmas Carol,” “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” and all the movies to keep the classic title. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll continue to see it.
Apparently, according to “Spirited,” it’s a business that has gone successfully over the years. It’s a musical comedy directed by Sean Anders, starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, and featuring the music of Pasek & Paul. They all seem to know that “Good Afternoon” in the Dickens age was the equivalent of “FU,” and this one is rated PG-13. I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed this for its bouncy and elaborate musical numbers, the chemistry between the two leads, and its good spirit.
And since this is a business, Present (Ferrell) is poised for retirement, but wants to prove his company wrong. That’s why he needs help from Jacob (Patrick Page), Past (Sunita Mani), and Yet to Come (played former basketball player Loren Woods and voiced by Tracy Morgan) to find the right jerk to redeem.
Present may have found the right guy in the form of Clint Briggs (Reynolds), a PR consultant, whom the job declares “unredeemable,” but Present thinks otherwise. When he meets this slime ball, he turns the tables on Present in more ways than he knows. Is he happy with his job or does he want a life with a mortal-Clint’s kind assistant Kimberley (Octavia Spencer)?
“Spirited” is a little convoluted in the story and it is a little long (2 hours and 10 minutes), but as a “Christmas Carol” parody, it knows it’s a parody and so do the characters, and it couldn’t be more flexible. But it’s also not mean-spirited as the story also features Clint’s deceased sister (Andrea Anders), her daughter (Marlow Barkley), and their brother (Joe Tippett); and it also shows a sweetness between Ferrell and Spencer.
Like “Deadpool 2” and “The Adam Project,” the movie allows Reynolds to be his brilliant, wisecracking self, but also have his vulnerabilities which prove himself otherwise. He’s able to have fun with the genre without being the typical Scrooge I’ve dreaded he would become. This movie is far from embarrassing, and learns to overcome the cynicisms of his character.
The last movie to use Pasek & Paul’s music was “Dear Evan Hansen,” which was too cynical and lousy for me to enjoy, and it’s nice to know that “Spirited” uses the songs in a similar high-spirited sense as “The Greatest Showman.” Except it’s funnier. After all, this is a Christmas comedy.
Speaking of which….
My all-time favorite Christmas comedy to star Ferrell will always be “Elf,” which allowed him to have a smart, comical sense of humor. It has been an annual holiday favorite for my family. “Spirited” will never top that film, but it will delight you with the numbers, spoofs, and stars.
In Select Theaters and Streaming on AppleTV+
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