‘Spirit’ review: Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds try their hands (and feet) at musical comedy in ‘A Christmas Carol’ spoof


For those wondering who would build a giant holiday musical comedy around Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, the “produced by Will Ferrell” credit provides a helpful clue. “Spirited” tries to turn “A Christmas Carol” on its head, and while it’s big and boisterous, the movie (which hits theaters ahead of Apple TV+) isn’t irreverent enough to feel like much more than a streaming stocking stuffer.

Directed and co-written by Sean Anders (“Daddy’s Home”) with songs by the “La La Land” team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, “Spirited” certainly has a big Broadway feel, while slyly wrapping its protagonists (not primarily known for their song and dance moves) with hordes of accomplished people doing both.

The playful tone, however, oscillates between the self-referential gestures to the incongruity of the people who suddenly burst into song and the sentimentality of holiday movies, when a commitment to more plain-eyed satire or a cheeky hug would be needed of his happiness

Of course, playing off Charles Dickens’ oft-told tale brings plenty of shorthand to the proceedings, with Ferrell as the Ghost of Christmas Present, who stumbles upon Clint Briggs, a media consultant who tried to commercialize Christmas. Present identifies him as a candidate to become his next “perp,” offering him a Scrooge-like opportunity for redemption. It doesn’t matter that Clint is described as a lost cause, or “irredeemable” as it’s called in one of the songs that sings that word over and over.

So Reynolds finds himself portraying a fat character we’ve seen him play many times before, a variation on his “Deadpool” brains, as Present struggles to tame him, as he takes an interest in the best employee of Clint (Octavia Spencer). , who spends more time struggling with his conscience about his work than his boss.

The Present team also includes the unexpectedly cheerful Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) and Future (voiced by Tracy Morgan), who complains in private moments that all he can do is point.

If only “Spirited” in essence didn’t keep tap-dancing its own lines, given that people know the underlying story of Scrooge, which has given us so many dark revisionist versions (see FX’s Guy Pearce film ) as broader parodies such as “Scrooged”. ” The only upside to this, really, is that the waffle makes the few really good jokes stand out, like Present describing Clint as “the perfect combination of Mussolini and Seacrest.”

Ferrell (who rounds out his Christmas movie resume with “Elf”) and Reynolds may not be surprisingly more adept at comedy than the energetically choreographed singing and dancing numbers, though they’re perfectly adequate at this point. , and they seem to be having a great time doing it.

Whether viewers will have as much fun is another matter. Because ultimately, “Spirited” isn’t distinctive enough to really separate it from the annual glut of holiday fare, serving as a nod to the past that’s a passable way to kill time in the present , but that probably doesn’t bode well. a future

“Spirited” opens Nov. 11 in select U.S. theaters and Nov. 18 on Apple TV+. It is rated PG-13. Disclosure: My wife works for a unit of Apple.

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