Spirited Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
What happens when Buddy the Elf & Deadpool end up clashing together? A crazy, unconventional Christmas musical that does not take itself too seriously!
Genre: Christmas / Comedy / Musical
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Patrick Page, Sunita Mani, Loren G. Woods, Tracex Morgan, Marlow Barkley, Joe Tippett & Rose Byrne.
Run Time: 127 min.
US Release: 18 November 2022 (Apple TV+)
UK Release: 18 November 2022 (Apple TV+)
German Release: 18 November 2022 (Apple TV+)
As I stated a couple of years ago, I am not the biggest musical fan, yet flicks like La La Land and Les Miserables did capture me emotionally. I even liked the songs in The Greatest Showman, even though I despised the screenplay. Spirited, is a Christmas-themed musical, released on Apple TV, which would have flown right past me, had I not had the subscription. Given the cast, I decided to give it a try, enjoying it quite a bit to my surprise! While it is far from perfect, it does entertain well!
A melodious version of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story. A greedy misanthrope, who treats everyone around him terribly, finds himself on a magical journey into the three phases of his lifetime: past, present, and future.
The story is an expansion of Dickens’ original “A Christmas Carol”, satirising the author’s work, as well as poking fun at the many, year after year, adaptations of his most famous work. It does so by being self-aware, and while not directly speaking to the audience, breaking the fourth wall several times throughout its runtime. This leads to entertaining events that spoof the behind the scene backgrounds of musicals, or “Holiday Specials”. All in all, the comedy is solid if not a little goofy.
Issues arise when it tries to hit the emotional beats, as the high sarcastic tone, upbeat songs and the constant jokes on behalf of the feature’s subject, make it hard to take anything it tries to sell seriously. Even the supposed Christmas magic, which the narrative tries to spread, does not really unfold, feeling more like a minor afterthought. In fact, if it weren’t explicitly playing on Christmas Eve, I wouldn’t even know that it is a holiday-themed premise. The over-reliance on breaking into songs, also hinders the plot's progression, making it longer than it needed to be.
The dialogue can be at times a little inelegant, however, one can argue that it is that clumsiness, which gives Spirited its charm. Then there is the factor of self-awareness that is used as comedy; for instance when someone breaks out singing for the fifth time, as a background character passes by, complaining about another performance.
Will Ferrell portrays his character, in the same manner, he played his last few roles, which is the signature wacky “child in a man’s body” type. He is the spirit of Christmas Present, with a secret human past that torments him, even if it is very on-the-nose who he used to be. That said, it is sweet to see him stumble into an unprecedented situation, as he tries to figure things out for himself. While Ferrell does have good on-screen chemistry with his acting partner, his character arc sadly gets overshadowed by the presence of Ryan Reynolds.
Clint Briggs is a media consultant, who stirs up controversies online, to get his clients what they want. He is the type of person who would step over a dead body to reach his goal, having lost all faith in humanity. Portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, Briggs calls out the absurdity of the situation he finds himself in, just like questioning who these spirits are, allowing themselves to judge him. It is from here onwards, that the feature becomes more interesting. Regrettably, the actor gives another rendition of a witty, charming persona, who can talk himself out of any situation.
Major supporting characters are, among others, Octavia Spencer who gives a sweet performance as Briggs' assistant Kimberly and Present sees a little bit of himself in her. Then there is Marly, played by Patrick Page, the director of the whole “redeeming souls” operation.
Cinematographically, it can get a little messy at times, specifically during the editing process. Nevertheless, the colour palette is very much in the spirit of the holiday season, making use of strong greens plus reds, while also not shying away to use a grimmer, darker tone for specific scenes.
The settings do look very stage-like at times, visually humorising Broadway, yet also paying homage to Santa’s helpers, who are crafting and planning all year for the next season. The settings look practical, with a lot of details. The costume design is cheerfully Christmas-themed. Computer effects are not dominant, even if some are used.
The film's musical songs were written by theatre composing duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who created some entertaining sing-alongs, which although original are pretty forgetful. “Good Afternoon” is possibly the most memorable, as well as best elaborated of all the songs. The score itself is more sombre, eclipsed by the sing-alongs
Verdict: This holiday flick is entertaining but also messy in its execution, unclear what it wants to be. With too many plot lines, it jumps from Briggs’ story arc to Present’s past, then includes romance, family ties and too many songs that stop any form of narrative progress. That said, it does get smoother the further it moves forward. Acting-wise, the two leads play their usual selves. Reynolds is the fast and witty, good-looking, narcissistic but likeable jerk, while Ferrell plays the bumbling idiot with a heart of gold. Both have great chemistry, however, Reynold’s persona does take away from Present’s emotional path. The camera work is fine, the editing inept and the sets, as well as the costume designs, are solid. The songs are well-written, even if not memorable. It is an okay feature, though no new Christmas classic. Spirited obtains a well-earned 6.0 out of 10.
What did you think of Spirited? Did you like it? Have you seen it yet? Leave a comment below to let me know. Thank you for reading.