Spirited review – an utterly charming musical take on a classic tale

By Lori Meek
Published: November 19, 2022 (Last updated: February 3, 2024)


It’s a silly musical with a silly story and fans of both Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds will very likely love it.

We review the Apple TV+ film Spirited, which does not contain spoilers.

Written and directed by Sean Anders (known for Horrible Bosses 2 and Instant Family), Spirited is yet another adaptation of the all too popular Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol. In this version, however, redeeming Earth’s Scrooges through the power of ghostly apparitions on Christmas eve is an entire enterprise operated by the world’s dearly departed, who also like to burst into song. The feature had a limited theatrical release before dropping on the Apple TV+ streaming platform. 

Will Ferrell’s first Christmas movie since Elf starts by introducing the ghosts and their operation after redeeming a “Karen,” whose name just happens to be Karen (Rose Byrne). Now a better person, the lady gave up on frivolous police complaints about her neighbors and joined in with a group of kids for a Christmas morning ball game. We’re introduced to the team of Christmas ghosts: Present (Will Farrell), Past (Sunita Mani), and Yet-To-Come (Loren G. Woods). Present has been at the job for over 200 years and while he’s eligible to retire and return to the land of the living, he keeps putting it off because he seems to love redeeming horrible people. And their new “perp” is as horrible as it gets. So awful that he’s been classed as “unredeemable.” Played by Ryan Reynolds, Clint runs a company that specialized in creating online scandals. One of his endeavors involved creating a Twitter spat between people who use real Christmas trees vs those who prefer the plastic variety. 

Determined to redeem the “unredeemable,” Present and his team of ghosts spend a whole year preparing for the perfect “haunt,” to help Clint see the error of his ways. Yet, on Christmas eve, things don’t exactly go as planned. Not only is Clint unimpressed by the whole ghost thing, but he even manages to seduce an all too keen Past, leaving it up to Present to deliver a good enough haunt that turns Clint into a good person. The only problem is that Clint has absolutely no interest in being redeemed. To further complicate things, Present seems to have developed a crush on Kimberly (played by the brilliant Octavia Spencer), Clint’s business partner and overall good person who hates her awful job. 

While I’ve never been a huge fan of Will Ferrell’s brand of comedy, I found this title to be utterly charming. It’s a fun concept with a slightly clumsy execution, but still worth a watch. The musical numbers are a bit hit-and-miss, but songs like Good Afternoon and Do a Little Good truly stand out. And I’d be surprised if they don’t make it on a few people’s Christmas playlists. The film even offers a twist that gives a friendly nod to the source material. And a cameo by the one and only Dame Judi Dench just adds to the magic. 

While some parts of the narrative don’t make much sense, this isn’t the type of film where little things like continuity and logic matter. It’s a silly musical with a silly story and fans of both Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds will very likely love it. Overall, Spirited is a welcome addition to the Christmas movie genre. 

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