Where I Watched it: Apple Plus
English Audio Description?: Yes
I think Charles Dickens Christmas Carol must be one of the most over adapted works ever, if not the most. The difference between it and say something like Little Women, is that we frequently get the same old story, but with a twist. An example of your not typical Carol would be bill Murray’s Scrooged. Although, Murray isn’t the only one. Even a recent episode of the animated FOX comedy The Great North repurposed A Christmas Carol. I’m sure everyone has their own favorite version, their perfect way this story is told. For me, that absolutely is not Disney’s A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey, which was just wrong on so many levels. but Spirited? Yeah. it did the trick.
Will Ferrell plays Present, who we catch just as he and his team finish up on their latest Christmas save. Ferrell works for a company that selects certain ghosts to participate in trying to set up a whole big Christmas Carol every year for someone. Ferrell is the reigning Ghsot Of Christmas Present, and actually could have retired already, but hasn’t (Yes, the movie will cover that plot point). But, Present runs into a man (Ryan Reynolds) who is called unredeemable by his organization. This is something Present just cannot believe, that someone can be unredeemable, though as the comedy aspects of this film will show you… Ryan Reynold’s likely really is. Despite Present’s best attempts.
All of this happens to a delightful set of songs, songs I can actually remember, unlike Disenchanted, which gave me a bunch of songs that were fine, but I don’t remember a single one. I’m still singing Unredeemable and Good Afternoon, and I hope this swings into the Original Song race.
Some critics haven’t loved this movie at near the level I do, and i can see where they are kind of right. There’s no really good reason for this film to be over two hours long, and while i can’t pinpoint the exact scenes that I would ahve chopped, it does feel a little like beating a dead horse when it comes to the relentless nature of devoting most of the films runtime to Reynolds being a total ass.
But, it’s actually Ferrell, who delivers the winning performance, not only just proving his worth vocally in the songs, but anchoring what turns out to be most of the emotional weight of the film. in the moments where Spirited is attempting to make you care, instead of laugh, Ferrell holds up the melancholic end of the film.
The ensemble here does good work, with nice turns from Octavia Spencer and Tracy Morgan, but the true char here is in the concept and score. It’s not the first Christmas Carol musical by far, but what Spirited does manage to do is what several remakes and retelling recently have not been able to, which is answer the question of “why?” Why do we need this version of Peter Pan? Why do we need this version of Cinderella? Why do we need this version of Pinocchio? Disney, for example, frequently just makes live action versions of their films because they can. the film itself offers nothing new, it doesn’t revolutionize, change the story, flip the script, change perspective, or anything.
Robert Zemeckis’s Pinocchio from earlier this year is a prime example of not understanding what audiences are looking for. Coming out of a studio that did quite well by changing the perspective of the story being told. Zemeckis had that chance, to turn it around and tell a different story, but he just adapted the same damn thing. Spirited not only takes an old concept, that has been done to death, but it does it along with a perspective flip, making Present the central character of the film. Not only is A Christmas Carol an industry, but it is also told from the perspective of one of the three ghosts.
I really enjoyed this film, and if it was just a little shorter, i probably would have gone with a full A, instead of a minus here. The audio description was what I want from a musical, where it doesn’t interrupt the singing constantly. I do differ from others in the blind community, who prefer to know more about the dancing and background happenings. As a fan of music theatre, it’s always about the music for me, even when I could see. If there’s a dance break, where no one is singing, then we can attribute that to being dance focused, but if someone is belting their heart out, I want all of that.
I do hope more people check out Spirited. Last year, 8 Bit Christmas became an instant classic for me, one I plan to revisit this year. I very well might revisit Spirited again next year.
Final Grade: A-