We have a new Christmas classic in Spirited, a joyously funny, ambitious musical starring a singing and dancing Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds.
Ferrell and Reynolds throw everything they’ve got into their roles, which require Buddy the Elf and Deadpool to pull off some major-league dance moves along with earnest, endearing singing. Neither performer is great at dancing or singing, but they are so damn enthusiastic that it’s infectious; there isn’t a single moment when they don’t seem to be giving it 100 percent and having the time of their lives. Their joy translates into very fun viewing.
The film riffs on A Christmas Carol, with Ferrell as Present, a ghost and the executive producer of a reality show where people are, of course, greeted by three ghosts and given the chance to redeem themselves. Present has been in charge for too many seasons and is considering retirement, which would allow him to become human again.
Before retiring, he takes on one more supposedly “unredeemable” person in Clint Briggs (Reynolds), a selfish businessman who makes a lot of money, but goes about it alone. Clint isn’t as despicable as past “Scrooges,” but he’s definitely got some issues that need straightening out. During Clint’s journey through his life, he often switches roles with Present, examining the ghost’s life and messing with his head.
Octavia Spencer plays Clint’s assistant; she’s also a love interest for Present, which successfully takes the movie into the romantic-comedy realm. Ferrell and Spencer may be this year’s best move couple.
It’s just fun watching these well-known actors hopping into big musical set pieces; a funny number called “Good Afternoon” is the film’s best. Director and co-writer Sean Anders provides some wonderful twists and turns—including one in particular that I did not see coming—that will keep viewers on their toes.
Spirited is one of those movies you will be happy to revisit for years to come, and it finally gives Ferrell the chance to sing his heart in a film. As a fellow Step Brothers fan reminded me, he has been called the songbird of our generation, and the songbird has taken merry flight.
Spirited is now streaming on Apple TV+. It is also now playing at the Century at The River and XD (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage) and the Century La Quinta and XD (46800 Washington St., La Quinta).