“Spirited” Adds Modernity to a Holiday Classic

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Earlier this year Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds posted a TikTok with the two of them singing Mika’s “Grace Kelly”. The two traded off harmonies and ended with a melodious number full of good vibes and high spirits. I knew then that something was brewing between the two, but I never imagined it would be Spirited, a holiday romp.

Spirited is an alternative take on Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It follows Ferrell as The Ghost of Christmas Present. He works in tandem with The Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) and The Ghost of Christmas Future (Tracy Morgan) to help a soul on the verge of rotten find their way to happiness and good-hearted news. We’re treated to the first rendition with Rose Byrne’s “Karen” who had a penchant for yelling at neighborhood kids to stay off of her grass, calling the police on her diverse neighbors, and stealing Amazon packages.

Karen’s story provides a lead-in for Reynold’s character Clint Briggs. Clint is a spin doctor whose latest feat is bringing back “Christmas” in order to energize the Christmas Tree Farm Collective. He wants to bring shame to those that would dare use plastic trees and would otherwise shun the almighty green… Christmas tree, that is. He also has a niece who is trying to run for student council president and looks up to Clint and his brother Owen (Joe Tippett), who act as caregivers for the girl after her mom (their sister Carrie – played by Andrea Anders) passed. Clint is obsessed with money, power, and getting his way by any means necessary. He’s the perfect next subject for the Dickens team.

We also get a pleasant surprise as Ferrell begins his journey with Clint, and he finds himself enamored with his assistant Kim (Octavia Spencer). This adds a special wrinkle as a mortal love and Clint’s cunning has Christmas Present doing some personal introspection.

The film is fun and fast and filled with a lot of heart. The musicality of the score and amazing songs like “View From Here”, “Bringing Back Christmas”, and the delightfully bawdy “Good Afternoon” all make up for the small, but noticeable amounts of auto tune and festive but sometimes overly-animated choreography.

One interesting thing the film has done is created an agnostic form of the holiday season. I believe the only time Christmas is mentioned is in the song “Bringing Back Christmas”, and that’s so Clint can weaponize it. Otherwise, though Christmas trees and green and red abound, the focus is on the holiday season, on personal responsibility, and above all, on doing your best. It actually makes the film a bit more accessible, not only for other denominations, but also for people who may not value the religious significance of the holiday.Spirited

Spirited is a fun and special film that feels both timely and classic. The humor is solid and the jokes are equal parts provocative, silly, and family friendly. Kids will especially get a kick out of “Good Afternoon”. While not at the level of Elf, it is a worthy second holiday outing for Ferrell. The performances are sappy and sentimental and perfect for the holidays. I highly recommend this film which is streaming now on Apple TV+.

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