The devil works in public relations in “ Spirited,” a new spin on “A Christmas Carol” starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds.
Review: Ferrell, Reynolds get ‘Spirited’ in holiday musical
The devil works in public relations in “ Spirited,” a new spin on “A Christmas Carol” starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. With songs by “The Greatest Showman” duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, big ensemble dance numbers choreographed by Chloe Arnold and special effects galore, “Spirited” it is a maximalist affair that spares no expense in its heart-on-sleeve efforts to entertain. The sincerity isn’t necessarily a bad thing: If you’re going to make a holiday-themed musical on Apple’s dime, you might as well go all out, right?
You’d also think that if you’re going to make a big movie musical, a genre that it seems every top filmmaker dreams of getting a chance to do, that you wouldn’t feel the need to have someone make a joke about it every time another character is about to burst into song. But that is the paradox of “Spirited,” which wants to be everything to everyone. The most egregious sin, though, is the fact that no one seems entirely sure of how to shoot a big, choreographed dance number effectively. At times, it feels like you’re watching a live show that wasn’t rehearsed with camera movements and cuts beforehand, doing a disservice to the songs, the dancers and sets.
And yet, though “Spirited” comes up short as a musical, it is still pretty enjoyable. Perhaps that’s because it is just so stuffed with everything else: If one part doesn’t totally work, there’s plenty else in the four-quadrant buffet to sample. In addition to the committed leads, there are comedy gems from Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), Christmas Yet-to-Come (Loren Woods with Tracy Morgan’s voice), Pasek and Paul’s easily digestible pop ballads and Octavia Spencer’s lovely singing voice.
Ferrell has already written his Christmas movie legacy with “Elf,” which is somehow turning 20 next year. Others might have cashed in after a holiday home run like that, but Ferrell seems to have exercised some discernment before jumping into another seasonal romp. Then Sean Anders, who directed him in “Daddy’s Home” and its sequel, came to him with this idea to re-imagine “A Christmas Carol” from the ghosts’ point of view. He would be the Ghost of Christmas Present, who is one part of a big operation that every year finds Scrooge-y humans to change with their hauntings. “Present” as he’s called, is long due for a retirement which the company’s HR department tries to remind him. (It’s just used for a joke, but it is also a crushingly depressing idea that this heavenly operation for good has HR at all).