“Spirited” provides modern “Christmas Carol” twist


When the holiday season rolls around, people across the country are flooded with advertisements and promotions for new movies. While the cold weather of December invites us to cozy up in front of the television and flick on these films, it seems that a proper mix of creativity and quality is hard to come by in recent holiday movies. While we can always fall back on the comfort of holiday classics, too often we see tacky spinoffs of traditional Christmas films, or a new movie experiment that completely misses the mark.

Despite the cycle of disappointing movies looking to continue, the new season brings the opportunity for more films to have their shot at glory, and the name that piqued the interest of many was Apple TV original, Spirited. While the title and trailers indicate another Christmas Carol spinoff, the star-studded cast consisting of holiday movie legend Will Ferrell, decorated actor Ryan Reynolds and academy award winning actress Octavia Spencer kept hopes high for many. While not necessarily an instant holiday classic, Spirited is a clever rendition of an age-old holiday tale, with an emphasis on music and comedy. 

The plot surrounds the life of the three ghosts of Christmas, as initially established in Charles Dickens’ original tale. The three spirits have one job in their post-humanous existence: convert the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world into jolly people full of Christmas cheer. The spirits do so by showing the grouch their past, present and future Christmas experiences, hoping to change their outlook on the holiday. 

In their 2022 attempt, the crew of spirits headlined by Jacob Marley (Patrick Page), The Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), The Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Tracy Morgan) head to Vancouver to target a snobby hotel owner as their conversion subject in the new year. At this very hotel, the spirits stumble upon cold-hearted businessman Clint Briggs (Reynolds). While Briggs is deemed “unredeemable” by Marley due to his arrogance and lack of moral compass, The Ghost of Christmas Present believes Briggs should be their target, and the spirits can redeem him with proper time and effort. 

The plot follows the process of attempting to redeem the unredeemable Christmas spirit in Briggs, but also follows several smaller plotlines. Off to the side, the Ghost of Christmas Present fights personal battles, as he begins to fall for a kind executive of Briggs’, Kimberly (Spencer). The Ghost becomes torn between continuing his profession of 200 years, or returning back to a normal life on earth with Kimberly. While Briggs is the subject, the tale becomes just as much about the Ghost than about Briggs’ redemption. 

While I had my fair share of suspicions about the film, I was pleasantly surprised by the way it turned out. While yes, it is yet another story that heavily takes from another, the creativity and quality were just enough to make it a solid movie. 

There were several things that I really enjoyed about the plot. I really liked the emphasis that was shown on Ferrell in his role as the Ghost of Christmas Past. While it’s clear that he would be the main protagonist at the beginning, the storyline seems to bring Reynolds/Briggs into focus, but eventually evens out into a proper emphasis on both of them. With actors as famous and talented as Ferrell and Reynolds, it’s hard to favor one over the other, and I’m glad the writers didn’t attempt to do so. In addition, I appreciated the showman ways of Reynolds and Ferrell. In a story that is partially a musical, having a unique brand of peppy and energetic flow to both the music and the average scenes help increase the cheery feel that many Christmas movies look to achieve. 

However, as is the truth with almost every movie around this time of year, it certainly isn’t perfect. My main complaint is more of a personal dilemma, considering I’ve never really been a fan of movies that attempt to be musicals. While there wasn’t much to complain about as far as the music goes, I think several scenes could’ve done without lavish song-and-dance numbers. While it really isn’t much of a problem, I do think there were a few odd inconsistencies with the musical aspect. I also believe that it was unnecessarily long. While I think that almost all of the scenes were important, it’s hard to believe that a fairly simple plot line would take over two hours to unfold.

Spirited is by no means perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. This film isn’t looking to overtake legendary musicals or Christmas classics, rather cement itself as a fun, energetic spin on an ancient holiday tale. Are there better versions of A Christmas Carol? Absolutely. Are there better musicals? Without a doubt. However, the cheerful theme of this story and the clever humor of both Ferrell and Reynolds will earn Spirited a spot in any movie fan’s stocking this holiday season.