Spirited review | Scrooged gets a modern musical retelling

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell star in Spirited, Sean Anders’ modern retelling of the Charles Dickens Christmas classic. 



Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell star in Spirited, Sean Anders’ modern retelling of the Charles Dickens Christmas classic. Here’s our review.

It feels wrong to state that Ryan Reynolds has never been in a musical. He’s done action, comedy, drama, and horror (although we don’t talk about The Amityville Horror, it’s a film best left forgotten). He’s an actor that you assume would have found his way into a tap dancing sequence or two. 

Well, at least one thing has been fixed and is right with the universe. Reynolds puts on on his dancing shoes, along with Will Ferrell, in Spirited, a modern retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. And the good news is that it’s just as delightful as you might expect and nowhere near as clunky as you might fear. 

Ferrell plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, who ambitiously chooses Clint Briggs (Reynolds) as the new target for his department. The aim is to completely transform the mean and selfish Clint by making him reflect on his life. They’re performing a Christmas miracle.  

spirited will ferrell

Credit: AppleTV+

Except Clint is stubborn and unwilling to change. He tries to turn the tables on Present and make him reflect on his ghostly life and whether it’s finally time to retire from all the haunting. 

With songs by La La Land and The Greatest Showman music men Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Spirited is a festive riot. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or do anything particularly outrageous, but it’s a great little Christmas musical with plenty of festive spirit to go around. 

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After the obligatory introduction scene where the gang have changed the life of Karen (Rose Byrne in a cameo), the first song ‘That Christmas Morning Feeling’ is a great, dynamic opener that sets the tone for the rest of the film. Some of the songs lack the emotional clarity of La La Land’s best songs or the catchiness of The Greatest Showman soundtrack. 

What those musical numbers occasionally lack in melodies, the film more than makes up for in the dance numbers. Choreographed by Chloe Arnold, the dance numbers are clean and ambitious. Mixing numerous different styles together, Arnold creates energetic sequences around Ferrell and Reynolds, who never get lost in the chaos, even if their moves aren’t quite as clean as desired. 

Most of Spirited runs on the infectious chemistry between Reynolds and Ferrell. Ferrell is more at home in a musical, while Reynolds occasionally lets his insecurity show. Thankfully, it comes across as mostly endearing here. Neither Ferrell nor Reynolds are trained dancers or singers, but much like Ryan Gosling in La La Land, the slight awkwardness brings an adorable everyman quality to their performances. 

Plot-wise, Spirited follows closely to A Christmas Carol, with a modern edge. It’s a fun twist to reframe the story to be told from the Ghost of Christmas Present. Director Sean Anders – who also wrote the script with John Morris – does raise some interesting questions about morals and conformity. Ultimately, Spirited plays things very safe. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make for slightly uninspiring filmmaking.

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There’s a definite spark to Spirited but Anders skilfully navigates the story and while Spirited is just a smidge overlong, the endless musical numbers keep you entertained enough. Anders’ secret weapon is Olivia Spencer, who plays Clint’s second in command and has grown to hate working for him. She brings a different type of levity to the film and stops it from becoming too much of a bromedy. 

Spirited may not be destined to become a lasting Christmas classic, but it will certainly bring you plenty of joy this Christmas. 

Spirited is in cinemas and on AppleTV+ on November 18. 

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