From The Muppets to Edmund Blackadder, comedy greats have been wringing laughs from A Christmas Carol for years now. Spirited sees two more — Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds — stepping up to take a crack. As the star of Elf, Ferrell has form when it comes to genuinely funny festive family movies, and Spirited is clearly swinging for that film's expert blend of child-like awe and adult-friendly gags. And while it doesn't match up to Jon Favreau's 2003 classic, there's still much to enjoy here.
In the world of Spirited, Dickens' one-off haunting has become an annual event. Each Christmas, an entire industry of cheery, headset-wearing spectres must select a new Scrooge-level wrong'un to undergo a redemptive journey into their past, present and future. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) spots an ideal target in suave douchebag PR guru Clint (Reynolds), who he sees as "the perfect combination of Mussolini and Seacrest". Soon enough the pair are zipping through formative moments in Clint's life, singing and dancing all the way.
The switching of traditional roles is a neat touch.
Yes: singing and dancing. Because in addition to being a family adventure, a high-concept fantasy and a buddy comedy, Spirited is also — somewhat inexplicably — a bona fide musical. The team behind La La Land, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are on song-writing duties here, though you won't find anything quite as catchy as 'City of Stars'; the tunes come thick and fast, though sometimes more 'Humbug' than hum-along.
It's a shame because the initial conceit — A Christmas Carol told from the ghosts' perspective — is an interesting one, and there are a few standout comedic moments (Sunita Mani is great as the randy-for-Reynolds Ghost of Christmas Past). The switching of traditional roles is a neat touch, too, as Clint turns the tables to shepherd Present through his own past (if you see what we mean). It makes for an entertaining, if overly-stuffed, romp, and while Spirited may not top Kermit and co's festive efforts, it certainly has a lot of fun trying.