From the Muppets to George C. Scott, there must be a bazillion different versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that have been produced since 1901’s Marley’s Ghost. Many theatre productions of the story are presented every year as well. You would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t familiar with the tale. For that reason, I was skeptical of watching Spirited on Apple TV+. But as it turns out, it isn’t really a new take on the story. It’s a whole new musical fantasy that features the key characters from A Christmas Carol but not how you would expect.
As we all know, after his visits with the three ghosts, Ebenezer Scrooge became a brand-new man. He was sort of scared straight if you will. In Spirited, it is explained that when Scrooged passed away, joined up with his old partner, Jacob Marley in the afterlife for on a mission to change as many other “Scrooges” as possible using the same tried and true formula. And it’s quite the production. There’s a lot of work scaring someone to change. Apparently, it takes months of research and preparation to create the perfect settings for change.
Just like the classic tale, when the big night comes, a person is first visited by Marley (Patrick Page) followed by visits by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Scrooge’s new role played by Will Ferrell) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (a hidden Loren G. Woods with the voice of Tracy Morgan). Each year, the Ghost of Christmas Present selects a dark soul to be reformed overnight. This year, his choice is crooked Christmas tree salesman Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) who is not only resistant to change, he challenges Ferrell’s ghost to reexamine his own life. This doesn’t sit well with Jacob who tells Scrooge that they have to play this thing by the book. Octavia Spencer plays Kimberly, Clint’s underappreciated assistant, who for some reason, is the only other human able to see Scrooge and sparks fly.
As you would expect, Spirited is pretty silly but it also manages to have a lot of heart. It’s a classical musical with big numbers and biting lyrics. All of the songs are enjoyable, and the choreography is impressive. The movie features original songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Oscar winners for La La Land) with choreography by Chloe Arnold, known for her work on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Spirted is a bit crass at times but still maintains a bit of innocence. However, due to some subject matter, I wouldn’t recommend it for family viewing. At least not for households with younger children. (They would probably get bored with it anyway.) But there is a good message for teens.
Sean Anders, known for the comedies Daddy’s Home and Instant Family, directs Spirited from a script that he wrote with John Morris. As with the original tale, this movie has a message of redemption, but it too has a twist of an ending that will give you something to think about after the credits roll up the screen.
Spirited is an unexpected holiday treat that you didn’t know that you needed to see.
(Main image: Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. Apple TV+)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.