Spirited review: Too Much Meta Musical

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Spirited takes a different approach to the Christmas Carol themed movies but showing it as a workplace musical comedy of how the hauntings get done. Enter the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), Present (Will Ferrell) and Yet to Be (Tracy Morgan) who select one dark soul every Christmas Eve to be reformed by a haunting. This time, Present selects Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), a heartless media consultant that specialises in creating controversy, conflicting, and spreading misinformation for clients benefit worldwide. He is deemed “unredeemable” of real change. Christmas Present is edging closer to retirement but wants to make an impact and stakes it all on Clint and getting him to change. It is an interesting take, to have A Christmas Carol told from the perspective from the ghosts with a musical twist from the creative minds of Pasek and Paul to write the music.

The meta spin is also a bromance comedy and a musical but it should have only been the latter to make the movie watchable. The meta-approach and comedy that does not land in the plot or the characters. Everyone has seen or is aware of the story of Scrooge and Christmas Ghosts and the film makes this clear. This is endearing with Ferrell creating a charming lead to root for. Reynolds truly looks like he is having the time of his life in the musical numbers and if it weren’t for his meta style comedy that he is known for (he does it in every role) but this time it conflicts with the rest of the movie and takes away, making those moments unwatchable and taking away the charm. None of the comedy lands. The movie conflicts with itself with what it wants to be, at times seemingly trying to keep to a family-friendly approach by carefully cutting away or avoiding words like “shit” so that it is noticeable but then has Present and Clint repeatedly use “prick” and “dick” and using suicide as a jolting plot point. Sometimes it seems to want to fit one mould but then breaks apart itself.

Reynolds and Ferrell make the movie with their chemistry, especially in times when Reynolds takes some time to not play Clint as Ryan Reynolds but Ferrell remains the best part of the movie with charm and talent that fits perfectly in the movie.

The music is the strongest quality of Spirited which is no surprise with Pasek and Pauls talents making the music. Octavia Spencer steals the movie at times with her beautiful solo The View from Here in both versions, one she duets stunningly with Ferrell whose musical talent also shines. There are fun numbers like Good Afternoon, a catchy song that is basically fuck you but, in a kid-friendly musical way. The best song of the movie goes to Unredeemable which is a strong song for the movie. Honourable mention goes to Bringin’ Back Christmas, the production design is immense in the movie giving it the Broadway feel but on a wider movie scale. It is impressive and saves the movie from the otherwise confusing mix.

Overall, the movie would be rated higher if it was a musical. The musical elements are the strongest parts and could have done without the comedy that did not land. Everyone looks like they had a blast making the movie, there’s even a lovely moment when the films crew are shown, but Reynolds normally charming self lets the movie down when he plays himself. There are moments he doesn’t and it makes for fun viewing and if he played it less sarcastic that would have been better. Spirited works as a musical but not as a comedy. The MCV goes to Christmas Present for saving the movie through the unwatchable moments.

Spirited premiers on Apple TV 18th November 2022

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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