By my estimation, there are approximately 300 retellings of the holiday classic A Christmas Carol. (And, for the record, the Muppet version is the best.) This year, Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds present a musical addition to the pantheon with Spirited on Apple TV+.
If you’ve seen any version of the source material, you know the basic premise. Reynolds plays Clint Briggs, a selfish, self-centered man whose career is based on using the Internet to sow division and hate. Ferrell is the Ghost of Christmas Present, tasked with trying to get him to see the error of his ways.
In many ways, as a modern interpretation, Spirited is a more cynical version of the beloved tale. As Clint points out, the ghosts have been trying to redeem souls for centuries, but the world hardly feels like it’s getting better. Just go online and you can see how awful the world can be. But while this view of the world can seem more jaded and cynical, it ultimately leads to a more honest lesson than is presented in the original story. “Goodness” isn’t a choice you make once, and redemption doesn’t happen in a single evening. Redemption is a process, and goodness is a choice you make every day.
As a comedy, it’s pretty much exactly what one would expect from a Farrell/Reynolds vehicle. The humor is a mixture of sarcasm, earnestness, and over-the-top gags. There’s even a nod to Farrell’s iconic addition to beloved Christmas classics. Where the script might falter (carrying on for what feels like one act longer than necessary), the chemistry between the two leads helps carry the story through. The two may not have musical (in the classic song-and dance sense) backgrounds, but they film surrounds them with supporting characters that do.
But as good as Farrell and Reynolds are, the true shining star of the film is Octavia Spencer‘s Kimberly. In the original story, she would be the Bob Cratchit stand-in. Though she doesn’t have the spotlight Clint and the Ghost of Christmas Present do, Spirited gives her a journey of her own. Unsurprisingly, Spencer makes the absolute most out of the time she’s given. Her ballad, “The View From Here” brings much-needed emotional resonance to the film’s musical numbers, which – with the exception of “Unredeemable” – otherwise aim to be more catchy than heartfelt.
Purists of A Christmas Carol may not enjoy its sometimes irreverent handling of the source material. But Spirited is an often fun holiday offering with catchy music and the occasional heartfelt offering. Making it well worth the watch.
Spirited is streaming now on Apple TV+.