This was one of the most surprising films I’ve seen this year. I wasn’t expecting much from it, and my wife and I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. You’d have to be a real Scrooge to dislike it. The reason I wasn’t expecting much from it is…I’ve grown tired of Will Ferrell always playing the man-child character. I’m also one of the few people that didn’t care for Elf. Every single person I’ve ever met loves that movie (although I do love Ferrell in Step-Brothers, so his man-child characters sometimes make me laugh).
Spirited is a take on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and it has almost the exact same vibe as Scrooged (they even mention Scrooge in a funny way, name-checking Bobcat Goldthwait). That being said, while it can be considered a “family film” you might occasionally get some words like “prick” that you hope will just go over the youngsters’ heads.
Ryan Reynolds can play this manipulative CEO in his sleep. What makes this so much fun is we’re seeing this story from the point of view of the various ghosts that have to haunt him and get him to change his ways. The boss (Patrick Page) wants the Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) to retire, after centuries on the job. If he retires, he can enjoy life as a human again (as he states, the idea of indoor plumbing makes that tempting). Yet the challenge of trying to get Clint Briggs (Reynolds) to change his ways, is too tempting to let go. Yet he’s deemed “unredeemable” – which means nothing they do will get him to change. Just as Bill Murray talked back to his ghosts, Reynolds does the same. And there’s something about Ferrell’s facial expressions and their arguments that are just hysterical. Before he visits though, it was Sunita Mani as the Ghost of Christmas Past that blew me away. The fact that she’s so flustered by his good looks, was a fun premise. And the way she throws away her lines is just perfect.
Those of us that are fans of Tracy Morgan, will love hearing him as one of the Ghosts, complaining that all he does is point with his scary finger. He yearns to, just once, yell “You’ve been haunted, bi**h!”
It was wonderful to cast Octavia Spencer as the sweet assistant, who doesn’t like working for Briggs and seems to have a crush on the Ghost of Christmas Present. Her first song brought tears to my eyes. It’s also so refreshing that they cast her in this part; the same with casting Mani. Who said the female love interest has to be some 20-something blonde? These two women were just perfect. Not to mention the fact that, it’s easier to buy Spencer as a woman troubled about finding “opposition research” on a middle-school boy to throw an election for Briggs’ niece. That storyline gets a bit dark, and works well for the story being told.
The idea of this also being a musical might not appeal to some, but the songs are funny and fun. They also joke about going into song and dance routines.
There’s a segment where they joke about people in the old days saying “good day” or “good afternoon” after they’re done talking with you, being such a big insult. It even results in a very humorous song and dance (the song sounded suspiciously like Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar song “We Saw Your Boobs”).
This movie is destined to be added to the classic holiday comedies. You can currently catch it at a few theatres in town, or on Apple TV+.
4 stars out of 5.