A holiday musical extravaganza that comes off just a bit too clunky and underwhelming than I would have liked, Spirited is nonetheless an enjoyable, humorous entry into crowded field of Christmas films.
In this modern day retelling of A Christmas Carol, Will Ferrell stars as the Ghost of Christmas Present who sets out to redeem a man who has been labeled unredeemable (Ryan Reynolds). Sean Anders’ film is a visual spectacle, the sets and costuming elevating the project and never once feeling cheap. Ferrell and Reynolds are hilarious with what they’re given, but it’s Octavia Spencer in support who really steals the show with a strong subplot and standout musical performances. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman) lend their musical storytelling talents with a grab bag of songs that largely were misfires for me, aside from Spencer’s The View From Here, Reynolds and Ferrell’s Good Afternoon (hilarious), and Ferrell’s Unredeemable. Though deemed a musical, the songs felt out of place most of the time and failed to nail that foot-tapping hook.
Spirited is not a bad film by any means, but it does suffer from a messy story, a questionable intended audience, and a failure to commit fully to the musicality of it all. Taking the first two points together, the story is simple, yet delivered in a confounded, overcrowded manner as music is interjected and we move briskly through plot points. There are moments where the comments and jokes that hit seem targeted towards an older-skewing audience and others that seem to play more towards the family fare, never quite finding a lane. And finally… yes, this is a musical, but even with characters lamenting that we are about to dive into song, it still felt forced and distracting. In the end, the talents of the cast elevate Spirited to a fun outing, though one I likely won’t be rewatching.
Spirited is now streaming on Apple TV+.