The last few years have left us all wanting change. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without sacrifice. These characteristics are what make possibilities so enlightening during the holidays. Yet, we’re afraid, for whatever reason, to change. It takes risk, spirit, and above all else, courage to make a change. Someone once said, Carpe Diem. But, it wasn’t Will Ferrell nor Ryan Reynolds who star in Apple TV’s “Spirited,” hitting theaters today before streaming on Apple TV+ on November 18th.
Keen on differentiating itself from other films or television shows which have used its source material, Sean Anders’ “Spirited” mixes comedy with a lyrical essence to espouse its Dickens-ness. As with other seasonal doings, the film is probably a bit too early on the season, but . . . Bah humbug, Ebenezer! We just had PSL at Starbucks; we can have Christmas before our turkey. It’s the spirit of the season!
Alright, I’ll tone down the grumbling that we’re all taking the seasons a bit too literally with an acknowledgment that spirit drives us. Now, where was I?
Egg nog toddy aside, Ferrell stars as Present. Take the name literally or figuratively; both work. Suffice it to say, Present is having trouble staying on task, helping people overcome objections to change when he is presented with a monumental task: to convert an unredeemable, in this case, Ryan Reynolds’ Clint Briggs, a self-opportunist seeking to ruin everyone’s lives with no consequence for himself.
Anders, who co-wrote the screenplay with John Morris, turns “A Christmas Carol” on its head with song and dance, but not everything is roses. Present really is struggling for a reason for his season. He’s been at his job for a very, very long time, and his story, paralleling Clint’s, is unique in the history of “A Christmas Carol” adaptations over the years. The movie is boisterous, full of beautiful characters, and yet another in a long line of adaptations of the immortal classic we’ve seen before.
What sells the movie, though, are Ferrell and Reynolds. It is palpable when they’re on screen, giving and taking each other’s energy. Octavia Spencer, whose singing voice is remarkable, co-stars. Her character is a catalyst for change but in yet another surprising way. Her presence oozes goodness, and we willingly accept it. The story takes the turns we expect it to, so the music and set pieces serve as the leftovers, but boy, are they tasty.
Three numbers stand out from the rest, “View From Here” and “Good Afternoon” happen early in the film. They tell the requisite story points from Dickens’ classic, first from a present perspective and second from a past perspective. The choreography and the beats work for a modern audience while they respect the story’s legacy.
A little less compelling are the editing and the special effects. Sure, that’s not why we’re here to see this film, but these two areas can take us out of the film’s movements. It is a minor nitpick, other than, “why did they have to make yet another take on a classic?” The realistic answer is that “A Christmas Carol” is the gift that keeps giving. Much like the Energizer batteries you folks will buy to power the toys you get under the tree.
Let’s remember what has come before us, though. Does “Spirited” compare to other films of its ilk? It isn’t a competition, folks. Ferrell and Reynolds are big enough kids that they can stand on their own two feet . . . . That is until you’re scrambling down the stairs of your gorgeously decorated modernistic condo on the top floor with a view of the Hudson below you and you knock your noodle on a fire plug. We all remember those moments, right? I thought not.
“Spirited” will most likely have you tapping your feet, clapping your hands, clasping your heartstrings, and smiling just a bit brighter over the season. Be the change in your heart and see “Spirited” in theaters now. Of course, if you choose to see “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” then make it a double feature, or you can get miserly and wait for this mistletoe to hang over Apple TV+ on November 18th.