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SPIRITED (2022)  l  AppleTV+  |  November 18, 2022

Starring: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Sunita Mani, Patrick Page

Director: Sean Anders

A musical version of Charles Dickens's story of a miserly misanthrope who is taken on a magical journey.

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REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

Spirited is a musical extravaganza that reimagines Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol for a modern audience with show-stopping musical numbers from the team behind La La Land and The Greatest Showman, that combined with the comedic talents of Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, results in a new holiday classic. 

 

Sean Anders has been responsible for numerous comedies over the past decade, ranging from hits like Instant Family and We’re The Millers, to ones you wish you could forget like Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy, which I turned off halfway through. But, his latest film is without a doubt his best film to date. It is a joyful and triumphant film that is certain to put audiences in the holiday spirit, while reminding audiences about the importance of kindness and friendship with this timeless story. Ryan Reynolds stars as Clint Briggs, a truly horrible individual, who is selected by Ferrell’s the Ghost of Christmas Present to be visited by three spirits in hopes of redeeming him and making him a positive force in the world. However, the Ghost of Christmas Present has met his match with Clint, who manages to turn the tables and has the Ghost of Christmas Present re-examining his own life while attempting to redeem Clint. 

 

Dickens's timeless tale has been entertaining audiences for decades, with various adaptations ranging from a traditional to comedic takes on the timeless story, but Anders’s musical twist on the story is without a doubt my favourite adaptation of this story to date. It is a story that audiences know inside and out, but telling the story from the perspective of the Ghost of Christmas Present provides a fresh take on it that provides territory not previously seen in other adaptations. Being set in modern times, the screenplay is self-aware of modern consumerism and social media culture, and has lots of fun with these moments. Whether it be a joke about opposition research, or Reynold’s big musical number “Bringing Back Christmas” addressing the plastic tree debate in a toe tapping and hilarious song and dance. 

 

At the same time, Dickens’s timeless messages about kindness ring louder than ever before given that the film follows both the ghosts and the Scrooge character, guaranteeing that the film will warm your heart by the end of the film. My only slight complaint about the screenplay is that it loses steam somewhere between the first and second act due to the over two hour runtime. The pacing of the film gets bogged down by plot and has a large break between musical numbers, which could have benefited from being about ten minutes shorter to keep the energy high throughout the film. 

 

Reynolds and Ferrell lead the film, and the two of them are a comedic match made in heaven. Both of them are excellent comedic actors, so seeing them share the screen together is a treat! Reynolds revels in the self-centered, narcissistic Scrooge character, while Ferrel is fun and light hearted as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Together, they play off each other’s energy perfectly following the script or improvising the moment. They are guaranteed to have you laughing from start to finish, while also taking you on their individual character’s journey to bring that holiday spirit to viewers. 

 

Spencer is a delight as always as one of Reynold’s employees, and her romantic chemistry with Ferrell is great, making for an unexpected yet beautiful pairing. Starring as the Ghost of Christmas Past is Sunita Mani, and she is absolutely hilarious, helping to create some of the funniest moments of the film alongside Reynolds and Ferrell. The rest of the supporting cast is all great, building the comedic energy and holiday spirit throughout the film.

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Though, without a doubt my favourite part of the film were the musical numbers. From the second the film begins, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s songs inject an infectious energy that brings the film to life. Their lyrics are incredibly catchy, that combined with a large orchestral accompaniment and flashy lighting design, evoke that live Broadway style musical number. The choreography is absolutely outstanding, infusing each scene with extravagant dance routines and having Reynolds and Ferrell dancing and waving those jazz hands throughout. Ferrell, who is no stranger to singing in his films, showcases his musical talent in his big solo numbers, as does the always lovely Octavia Spencer. Reynolds may not be the best singer, but his incredible showmanship easily carries him through his songs as Pasek and Paul tailor the vocal range of his songs to match his singing ability. 

 

Not even having to think about it for a second, my favourite musical number was “That Christmas Feelin’” which bookends the film, that is without a doubt one of the catchiest songs of the year that is likely to be in running for the Oscar for Best Original Song. The second the song began both times, I was grooving along in my seat, completely mesmerized by the musical genius of Pasek and Paul yet again. Reynolds’s big solo number “Bringing Back Christmas” is an absolute blast, while “Do A Little Good” captures the heart and soul of the film’s message. 


Everything about Spirited is oozes with the Christmas spirit, guaranteed to tug on your heart strings and leave you with a massive smile on your face, resulting in a new holiday film that I cannot wait to watch over and over again every December. Packed with show-stopping musical numbers from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul that are guaranteed to have you feeling the Christmas spirit, elevated by the wonderful lead performances of Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell and Octavia Spencer with the brilliant new take on Charles Dickens’s classic tale, makesSpirited one of my favourite films of the year and a triumphant new Christmas classic!

RATING: 4.5 out of 5