Will Ferrell (“The Shrink Next Door (TV)”, “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”) has, in many people’s books, one of the greatest Christmas movies in Elf and here he is trying to make a second one with Spirited.
Purchased by Apple for their TV+ platform and released in cinema’s first, this marks a huge outlay for the tech brand, Ferrell and co-star Ryan Reynolds (“The Adam Project”, “Free Guy”) were reportedly paid $20 million each for their roles.
Spirited comes from the minds of Sean Anders who writes and co-directs with John Morris, both “Instant Family”, “Daddy’s Home”, and is a musical take on the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol, only told from the point of view of the ghosts.
We begin with the ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) who, together with Past, Sunita Mani (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”, “Servant (TV)”), and Future, Loren G. Woods who acts as the Future and Tracy Morgan (“Squidbillies (TV)”, “Saturday Night Live (TV)”) who voices Future, let us in on what it is they actually do.
Rather than simply having visited one person, hoping to change them for the better, there’s actually a whole process that goes on, a whole support team and people are visited each and every year. These ‘perps’, as they’re known, are studied for 12 months prior to the visit.
This has been going well, but Present is feeling disillusioned and doesn’t think they aim high enough. Whilst visiting their next ‘perp’, a mean spirited hotel owner, they meet Clint Briggs (Reynolds), a PR guy who specialises in fueling hate, and making a lot of money doing it.
Present wants this to be the target, he influences millions of people, think of the ‘ripples’ he would generate if they could change him.
However, the leader of this change gang, Marley, Patrick Page (“Quantum Cowboys”, “The Gilded Age (TV)”), doesn’t want to know, especially as Briggs has been deemed an ‘unredeemable’.
This means Briggs can’t possibly change, he’s beyond their help. Despite this, Present is convinced and wants this to be the next ‘perp’. He manages to get his way by starting to sing to Marley, who tells him he can have his man, providing he stops singing immediately.
This is an ongoing theme with Marley, he’s not a fan of musicals, and always rolls his eyes when someone starts to sing. The songs themselves are sometimes acknowledged and other times not. We’ve seen this before of course when Jason Segel brought back The Muppets in 2011, think along those lines and you won’t be far off.
The story is hard to pin down, on the one hand you have the team attempting to change Briggs, on the other hand Briggs is turning the tables and trying to get Present to see who he really is and what he really wants.
Then there’s Briggs’ assistant, Octavia Spencer (“Thunder Force”, “Onward”), who is also unsure on who she is and what she really wants whilst many of the ghosts have their own battles to overcome.
The whole cast dance and sing their way through Spirited like that sort of thing is going out of fashion whilst keeping their tongue firmly in their cheek.
Reynolds plays the role you know and love, though now with added singing which is a first…Ferrell meanwhile dampens his usual child-like manic energy, which is welcome, whilst Spencer is underused and Page steals every scene he’s in.
You can see Spirited has had money spent on it, and not just for the vocal training that’s gone on, though at times it feels like it’s all been setup to be taken to Broadway and the West End immediately.
The song and dance numbers are epic on scale, you can decide for yourself if the singing is any good, and there’s plenty of glitz and glamour, and humour.
So, is this the next big Christmas movie you’ll all be watching year after year? Well, it’s not for me. This isn’t even the best modern take on A Christmas Carol, see 1988’s Scrooged for one example (a movie that’s referenced in Spirited as it happens), nor is it the best musical version of A Christmas Carol, see 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol for that.
Spirited is ok, it’s enjoyable, it has plenty of funny moments, providing you don’t dislike the two stars obviously, but it doesn’t feel like a telling of A Christmas Carol that will worry any of the ones that have gone before. Bah-humbug.
11th November 2022
THE QUICK SELL
A musical version of Charles Dickens's story of a miserly misanthrope who is taken on a magical journey.