Another year, another twist on the Scrooge formula. Apple’s Spirited is one of two films loosely based on A Christmas Carol (Netflix’s musical version arrives in December), but few others could offer a more compelling duo of leads.
The yuletide fable imagines that Dickens’ ghostly visitations are not only real, but a yearly occurrence run by an organisation of spirits. Among them is Present (Will Ferrell), who ignores the advise of his other spirits and tries to save cruel media consultant Clint (Ryan Reynolds). However, his target flips the script and soon Present is having his own Christmas crisis.
Reynolds has been a one-man brand ever since hitting it big with Deadpool, and it’s clear the film is banking on his and Ferrell’s chemistry. It’s a bet that mostly pays off, as the pair sing and snipe their way through an enjoyable romp. Ferrell’s elf-like innocence works well with Reynolds’ sarcasm, and the pair deconstruct a classic with a lot of enthusiasm.
The film’s weakness is the number of ideas that crash into each other, bloating the time to a needless 2 hours and never managing to fulfil every side plot in a satisfactory way. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is criminally underused as Clint’s assistant, who forms an attraction with Present that doesn’t feel particularly pressing.
That said, there’s a lot here for those wanting a bit of senseless fun. The musical numbers are spectacular, written by the duo behind The Greatest Showman (another film with more songs than story). The pair goad each other into increasingly silly antics, such as riffing on the idea that “Good Afternoon” was a horrendous insult in the 1800s. It’s easy to see how Spirited could enter the Christmas circulation as a flawed but entertaining holiday favourite.