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‘Spirited’ Review: A Clever Spin on a Holiday Favorite

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Where to stream it? Apple TV+

Starring: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Sunita Mani, Patrick Page, Marlow Barkley, Tracy Morgan

Directed by: Sean Anders

Let’s face it- when it comes to adaptations of A Christmas Carol, there are PLENTY to go around. This year alone features several, including an upcoming animated film on Netflix and A New Diva’s Christmas Carol on VH1.

So when I first heard that Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds were starring in a Christmas musical film inspired by A Christmas Carol, I had to ask myself- do we really need another? Consider my surprise then, that Spirited finds a way to give a fresh spin on a familiar classic that is a delight to watch. 

The Ghosts Get the Spotlight 

Let’s get this out of the way- Spirited is not a retelling of A Christmas Carol in the traditional sense, but rather a film that draws inspiration from it’s ghostly characters. In this film, the spirits get the spotlight.

There are many films that show the behind-the-scenes workings of Santa’s headquarters in the North Pole (including, of course, Will Ferrell’s own Elf). Spirited takes a similar concept, but applies it to a staff of Christmas ghosts who are assigned to help redeem one dark soul every holiday season.

Will Ferrell plays The Ghost of Christmas Present. He works alongside the Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Tracy Morgan), and their boss, Patrick Page as Jacob Marley (you know… the one from Dickens’ story).

The ghosts discover Ryan Reynolds’ character Clint Briggs, a media consultant that Ferrell's character describes as the “perfect blend of Seacrest and Mussolini.” Christmas Present thinks he is the perfect candidate for this year’s holiday redemption, even if Jacob finds him “unredeemable.” 

Our lineup of ghosts band together to show Clint of his troubled ways, bringing Clint’s assistant, Kimberly (Octavia Spencer), along for the ride, too.

The comedy film is filled with clever one-liners, self-aware meta jokes, and toe-tapping tunes, because this is, in fact, a musical. 

It Will Give You That Christmas Morning Feelin’

Musical films aren’t for everyone. And it seems the team behind Spirited wanted to try very hard to win over adults who might be cynical towards bubbly musical numbers. 

With that comes a bit a tug-of-war between a film that wants to be an earnest family musical and an adult comedy that isn’t afraid to get snarky. There's also some dialogue that dials up the rating to a light PG-13.

I can’t say that the final product strikes the perfect tonal balance between these two ends of the spectrum. It felt like it was trying to be multiple things at once and with a 2 hour, 10 minute run time, a bit of a drag towards parts of it’s latter half.

Still, the songs left me humming along, and the movie’s moral compass feels genuinely heartfelt. 

The movie took familiar Christmas movie tropes: a workshop of holiday helpers, ghosts taking a man along a journey to become less of a jerk, and made it into something that feels new again.

Final Thoughts: Spirited Review

In the long run, this might not become the same sort of holiday classic as Christmas Vacation or Home Alone.

As a choice for a movie night with some laughs and festive cheer, though, this will do the trick. 

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Matt Davis
Matt Davis
Matt Davis is a writer, entertainment critic, and content creator that hails from the Kanas City area. He has been featured in various publications, including TODAY.com and CNET. As the founder of Shall I Stream It? he has helped it grow into a multi-platform media outlet that reaches over 100,000 viewers each month.
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