If you fed the words of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to an AI system and asked it to produce a script for the screen, you are likely to end up with one that resembles Apple TV+’s Spirited starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell.
Christmas is around the corner and the ghosts of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), Present (Will Ferrell), and Future (voice of Tracy Morgan) embark on a mission to find and change an immoral and greedy human. Their pick for this Christmas is Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) a PR executive who profits off of creating conflict. In the world of the spirits, Clint is deemed “unredeemable” but the ghost of Christmas Present decides to take the gamble and work on Clint for the season. What ensues is a series of poorly composed songs, cliché discussions on the human psyche, and a spiritless lesson for the festive season.
Throughout the two hours, we never get to understand the characters of Reynolds and Ferrell. They are inconsistent with their beliefs and behaviours making us question whether Clint actually changes as a person towards the end of the film — a premise the movie is structured around.
Despite some of their missteps (the puppy-like energy that Reynolds brings to the screen sometimes feels exhausting to watch), Ferrell and Reynolds are bearable in their respective roles. However, the chemistry they share feels forced, making their friendship feel phony to the audience, for a film whose main attraction is the bromance.
Casting two protagonists who are not trained to strain their vocal cords dōes not work in the film’s favour, not to mention the carelessly-written lyrics that don’t give us the space or time to ponder over their message. The production design is extravagant, and campy, and upstages the storyline at times making an already drab narrative worse.
The pacing of the film and the jokes in it feel mechanical; the ok boomer and Karen jokes are done to death and fail to evoke laughter. These flaws make us believe that the film is unsure of itself and is using clichés to make up for its shortcomings. It is reminiscent of a two-hour-long movie stitched together by a few songs that do nothing to advance the narrative.
Spirited is unlike any other adaptation of the classic Dickens’ novella; for starters, it does not engage with poverty and greed like its predecessors, and its spirits are always high making you wonder if that is where this promising Christmas package went off the rails.
While it is a welcome change from all the air-headed Christmas romcoms, Spirited is unlikely to make it to the list of Christmas classics like Home Alone and Polar Express that enjoy a staggeringly high re-watch value.
Spirited is currently streaming on Apple TV+