The Yuletide staple A Christmas Carol receives a new, star-studded rendition in Spirited. I know what you are thinking; how many times can studios regurgitate a beloved holiday tale's tried and true traditions? This time, viewers are entrenched in the perspective of the Ghost of Christmas Past - a well-seasoned member of an eternal organization that tries to transform rotten-egg people into kind souls.
The Ghost of Christmas Past discovers his greatest foe yet in the form of business tycoon Clint Briggs. As the CEO of a callous organization that peddles synthetic truths, Briggs seems unredeemable in his overwhelming cynicism. I'm sure you can guess what happens from here.
Spirited certainly isn't reinventing the wheel, but the film doesn't necessarily have to in its search for genuine Christmas cheer. Jazzed up with an all-star cast and a plethora of vibrant music numbers, Spirited offers an agreeable crowd pleaser for audiences of all ages.
It only feels right for Elf star Will Ferrell to rekindle his comedic spark in a Christmas-centric feature. Following years of wayward duds, like The House and Daddy's Home, Ferrell injects his signature exuberance and affable charisma with winning results as The Ghost of Christmas Past. Additionally, Ryan Reynolds makes for a dynamic comedic foil as the wicked Clint Briggs. The actor's gleeful snark is well-suited for the role of a vicious business leader learning to reckon with his wicked ways. Both stars make for an endearing pair onscreen, serving up snappy one-liners and enough personability to make their characters' shared plights feel authentic onscreen.
Spirited presents its high-concept twist on A Christmas Carol with an infectious spirit. Director Sean Anders operates comfortably within the film's studio comedy formula, steadily steering his fast-paced narrative while taking every opportunity to slip in colorful gags and showstopping music numbers. The songs here are a particular standout. Each number captures the alluring theatrics of a grand stageplay through synchronized choreography and lavishly designed sets. The music also showcases the film's effective balance between levity and pathos, merging the two dissident tonalities into a succinct summarization of the human joys and pains that feel even deeper around the holidays.
Still, I wouldn't label Spirited as the next Christmas classic. The film's reinterpretation of A Christmas Carol lacks ingenuity, often repurposing the same narrative beats without energizing their archaic roots. While the music numbers and comedic flourishes help conceal a few cliches, a déjà vu sensation will likely still linger with most viewers. I was also disappointed in the film's lackluster visual presentation. Anders and his filmmaking team deploy an unnecessarily dim camera sheen that only works to muddy some of the film's vibrant setpieces.
It may not be a perfect present, but Spirited boasts enough affability and pizzazz to entertain viewers looking to get into the Christmas spirit.
Spirited is now playing in theaters and on Apple+.