It’s that time of year once more as holiday shopping commercials fill our device screens and the flood of the season’s latest Christmas films are unleashed upon the public. This year’s entry from Apple TV+, Spirited, brings together the insane talents of Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. The film is inspired by the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, but this is not the story you think you know, so buckle up and get ready for some fun.
Directed by Sean Anders, Spirited focuses on the story of the ghost of Christmas present (Ferrell) as he seeks to redeem the most irredeemable of people to make the biggest impact on Earth. But what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Enter Clint Briggs (Reynolds), a fast-paced consultant that gets results for his clients using any and every malicious trick in the book. This is Present’s white whale, his final chance to make a major impact before his retirement. But Briggs won’t go down easy in this feisty comedy holiday classic that will keep you guessing until the very end.
I’m a sucker for a good holiday film, and I love that in the modern era we’re getting such a variety of takes from within this genre. Spirited fuses together a ridiculous amount of subgenres that covers comedy, holiday special, and a musical. Yet, the film never really misses a beat in aligning these tones with the overall plot of the film.
Pairing the talents of Ferrell and Reynolds on-screen is a recipe for success and with the backdrop of a redemption story at Christmas, it’s hard to root against this film. I can only imagine what it must have been like watching these two larger-than-life characters riffing with each other every day while filming. That chemistry is evident on the screen and I loved how they managed to play off each other, especially when it came to the musical performances. The dynamic banter back and forth between the two actors culminates in a playful relationship that seems so natural and you never lose that moment which helps keep you engaged in the plot.
I’ve certainly enjoyed musicals in the past, and I will advocate for their importance and impact all day (go watch Tick, Tick, Boom I beg you!), but I can’t call myself a musical enthusiast. Typically, a musical really has to hit those right notes for me to love it, but more often than not, the genre is not my cup of tea. However, the use of the style as it’s adapted for Spirited absolutely sells the self-aware pantomime of the spectacle. The numbers are catchy as hell, and my god the dance routines are brilliantly choreographed and visually compelling, utilizing a large amount of tap to reinforce the beat of the music. Spirited went all in on their dance numbers hiring an enormous cast to perform these routines. Organizing that many people on film in one follow-through shot repeatedly throughout the story takes tremendous effort by my word does it pay off. Put it all together with some bombastic music, and hilarious lyrics you will want to add this soundtrack to your Spotify list.
The comedy aspect of the film is exactly what you might expect when you hire two of the biggest comedy film actors in the industry. There are certainly films when the deliveries of either actor can feel a little stale and predictable, but the script and the interpretation of the dialogue were done fantastically. Just genuinely enjoyable all the way around. The humor never goes too far, nor does it linger too much on any ludicrous point, but it’s also very cognizant of the tropes of holiday films and has a lot of fun with it. It never feels derogatory in any way, which helps keep it tethered as still wanting to be a Christmas comedy film.
For me, the keystone of any Christmas film has to be the emotional impact of the final act and as you’re watching Spirited, you may start to predict where the ending is inevitably headed. While you might be right in certain aspects, there were numerous aspects of the plot I just didn’t see coming that really add to the quality of the story, which is what helps it remain a true Christmas film for me. The ending itself is a rollercoaster of turns that culminates in a final spectacle that did genuinely leave me emotional and fill me with some holiday spirit.
A Christmas Carol is ultimately about redemption, and Spirited really explores that message. Anders ponders throughout the film whether redemption is something that can be achieved or something you have to strive towards every single day. It’s something the characters are wrestling with from the beginning of the film to the very end of it. While the body of the film is dressed up as something fun, the character’s motivation is one of a state of constant remorse trying to repay the wrongs they’ve previously committed. It’s an incredibly interesting notion that will really sit with me for some time to come.
Spirited is a brilliant holiday film meant for an adult audience, packed with some great jokes, lively performances, catchy musical numbers, and topped off with an emotional ending I wasn’t really prepared for. No, this isn’t Elf, you won’t see it paraded on TV every Christmas. But boy, this was considerably better than I had anticipated. I’m going to urge you to go watch this and the simple reason is that it’s just a bloody fun film that will leave you smiling at the end of it. I immensely enjoyed this film.
Spirited will be available exclusively on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 18th.
- Rating - 8/108/10
Spirited is a brilliant holiday film meant for an adult audience, packed with some great jokes, lively performances, catchy musical numbers, and topped off with an emotional ending I wasn’t really prepared for.
Aaron is a contributing writer at But Why Tho, serving as a reviewer for TV and Film. He is also the co-host and social media manager of the Nerds Social Club podcast.
Hailing originally from England, and after some lengthy questing, he’s currently set up shop in Pennsylvania. He spends his days reading comics, podcasting, and being attacked by his small offspring.