It is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Not only are we in the middle of Oscar season but to most, it’s the holiday season that matters more. And in being so, the movies that are holiday based can be watched on repeat from timeless classics to brand new stories to modern reimagining’s. I’d use the term smorgasbord to describe these two months at the tail end of the calendar in regard to the variety of films that are readily available. The newest release on the streamer Apple TV Plus, Spirited is the latter of the descriptions mentioned in a previous sentence. Essentially, Spirited is a modernized version of possibly one of the most beloved Christmas stories ever told – written by Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol.
Usually, with a modern reimagining comes a fresh and different take of the classic story, big stars at the height of their clout and an homage to what came before it. Spirited checks off these boxes just by watching the trailer or taking a quick peek at the poster. The fresh take of Spirited comes by way of a musical, with a score by Dominic Lewis and original songs written by the household name duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. From The Greatest Showman, La La Land, 2019’s Aladdin and Dear Evan Hansen, the two are an obvious choice. Spirited has the Broadway DNA with an off-Broadway feel to it from its opening number to its final reprise and everything in between.
Spirited follows the familiar ghosts of Christmas Past aka Bonnie (Sunita Mani), ghost of Christmas Present aka Roberto (Will Farrell) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (voiced by Tracy Morgan, played by Loren G. Woods). Over the years, the haunting of the worst person living on earth has become a business. Each year, one lucky human is chosen to be redeemed by the ghosts to make a positive impact on society. Starting in January, the team meticulously recreates every detail of the haunted’s past, present, and yet to come until December rolls around and the lucky person is visited for a rude awakening.
At first, the ghosts all come together to select the manager of a hotel as their next soul to redeem. It isn’t until Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) comes into the picture to rouse a corporate sponsored event that Present decides Clint is the person that can really make a positive impact in the world. A ripple effect that lasts in perpetuity.
Both Ryan Reynolds and Will Farrell are respectively the 2 biggest stars in Hollywood today. Pairing them up to be the faces in front of Spirited was the right call. Both can have chemistry with a brick. Written by Sean Anders and John Morris with Anders serving as director, the two introduce an unknown variable into their screenplay that quantifies a modern reimaging. Add in a touch of self-awareness that the ghosts know it a musical and the result is a delightful addition to any Christmas holiday viewing rotation.
Coming in at 127 minutes, Sean Andes filmoverstays its welcome by about 30 minutes. Long after dessert has been served and it’s time to turn in for the evening. There are several potential outs Anders could have used for a clean, satisfying ending but then another lesson is learned, and a musical number spontaneously erupts prolonging the inevitable end. Pasek and Paul’s songs are well written as always but as the film goes on they become less memorable. There is no This is Me or Waving Through a Window. The song Unredeemable comes close but in an oversaturated film, it’s just another song.
Reynolds’ schtick gets in the way of a great performance but in the grand scope of it all, it’s more subdued than in Red Notice. He dials it back for the betterment of the film since the focus is on the message of humanity and saving someone from an ultimate corruptible state. Farrell is more reserved with his performance – not going for his usual slapstick type of comedy but finds a happy medium to it. Like I mentioned earlier, both have instant chemistry together without one word of dialogue being spoken.
Labeled as a comedy, Anders and Morris attempts to throw a social commentary on what one action can do when bullying is involved – snowballing out of control until something that cannot be undone happens. As adults we don’t think it will go that far nor are we thinking of the consequences that may come but in the age of social media, bullying has more of an effect on a person than ever before, especially children. At the end of the day, Clint Briggs gets the message behind some of his horrible actions, but he stays the same. Unlike the original Scrooge who changes his entire outlook on life, Clint doesn’t actually change. He sees the faults in his actions, but he stays the same until the very end of the story.
Overall, Spirited is sure to delight. Anchored by its two mega stars and a strong surrounding ensemble including the outstandingly talented Octavia Spencer as Clint’s associate Kimberly and Patrick Page of Broadway acclaim as Jacob Marley. A misstep in runtime keeps the film from achieving what the greats in the genre have but it’s a thrilling ride to be on. From concept to execution Spirited is a solid entry to kick off the holiday season.
Screenplay By: Sean Anders & John Morris
Directed By: Sean Anders
Music By: Dominic Lewis (Score), Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (Songs)
Cinematography: Kramer Morgenthau
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Will Farrell, Octavia Spencer, Sunita Mani, Patrick Page, Marlow Barkley, Loren G. Woods, Tracy Morgan
Where to Watch: Apple TV Plus
Release Date: November 18, 2022
Running Time: 2 Hours 7 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Based On: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens