Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 7 minutes, Director – Sean Anders
A controversial PR manager (Ryan Reynolds) labelled as Unredeemable proves a difficult figure for a group specialising in Christmas changes of character, particularly the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell).
Perhaps one of the best things about Spirited is that it gives us the first Ryan Reynolds performance in what feels like a long time where Reynolds doesn’t entirely seem to be playing himself. While not an entirely against-type role it’s still nice to see him making a change from his Deadpool-esque roles and asides of the last year or two. He plays Clint Briggs, a man “so persuasive [he] kind of makes you want to push an old lady down the stairs”. As a PR manager he’s made a career of spawning controversy and Twitter storms between celebrities, his views of taking down opponents with as much of an attack as possible bring him to the attention of a particular group who specialise in recreating key life events of a chosen figure each festive season in the hopes of changing them for good.
The main figure who leads Clint through his Christmas past and present is Present himself (a restrained Will Ferrell). Relishing the opportunity to jump into a musical number there’s plenty of energy to be found within the various songs throughout the film. It may occasionally feels as if the musical edge has been dropped, however when leaping back into another Benj Pasek and Justin Paul number. Most of which scream Broadway with their big jazzy, theatrical, all-teeth stylings. Occasional songs may feel as if they’ve been written for the stage, particularly with the way in which they are built up to, but there’s still plenty of energy and enough to enjoy within them.
Present in particular gets a number of ballad-style songs as his conflictions with his job, where some are questioning whether he may retire or not to an actual life, come more to the fore. This is especially the case in the second half when the film introduces a number of elements as slight continuations of what has come beforehand. Yet, a handful feel like new points and the film as a whole starts to feel slightly lengthy. It’s not that things feel cluttered or busy, more near to drawn out, particularly at 127 minutes long. However, while this may enter the mind a couple of times after the 85-90 minute mark the musical numbers help to carry things through by simply keeping a continuous highly entertaining tone. They bring the engagement and entertainment factor, alongside a handful of chuckles every now and then within the very festive tone.
Much of these chuckles arrive when Reynolds and Ferrell bounce off each other. Feeling kept in place by director and co-writer (alongside John Morris) Sean Anders there feels a style of having stuck to the script thanks to their consistently restrained performances. You manage to engage with them and the fun that they appear to have been having on set, also pushed across by a supporting cast which includes Octavia Spencer and Patrick Page. Together, alongside the screenplay, they all help to take the elements of A Christmas Carol, and slightly deconstruct them as the narrative moves along and changing the story to not quite tell the same old course again. While things might slow down and feel a bit drawn out when adding extra details to the narrative there’s still enough glitzy festive cheer on display in the theatrical musical numbers, and chemistry between Reynolds and Ferrell, to keep things moving along rather well.
A restrained Ferrell and Reynolds work well together in creating a handful of chuckles within Spirited. Things may begin to feel a bit drawn out and busy with the narrative developments of the second hour, but there’s still plenty to enjoy within the highly entertaining glitzy musical numbers.