From the director of That’s My Boy and the screenwriter of Horrible Bosses (the second), Dumb and Dumber (the second) and the two films (the first and second) Daddy’s Home comes Spirited, a Christmas-themed musical that promises festive fun, but looks like something an elven slave was forced to smack over the summer, while Santa went on vacation. Billed as a musical reimagining of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the film is about as joyful an experience as having to deal with Amazon customer service on Christmas Eve because they lost your present in transit.
But we summoned the wrong corporate lords. Spirit is the first real attempt at a blockbuster-level film by Apple, a streamer that has remained rather unambitious when it comes to aggressive expansion thus far. But to help its cause, Apple has hired two real movie stars above the title.
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Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell split a Laverne and Shirley credit — it’s the curious semi-even billing situation stars of similar stature negotiate in two-handed projects — in a film that appears to have spent 80% from the budget to their salaries. That’s probably one of the main reasons why Spirited is one of the most plastic movies either actor has ever been in, and it says a lot about Reynolds, who has dedicated himself in recent years. years of doing nothing else.
As his public persona became increasingly indistinguishable from Deadpool, Reynolds appeared in a series of blockbuster films that somehow blended into each other; movies like Free Guy and The Adam Projectand the worst offender, red notice. Not only are these films depressing, but they have actually contributed to a decline in the quality of populist entertainment coming out of Hollywood. Fiery is more the same.
The film reaches its absolute outer limit of ambition when it presents Dickens’ familiar story through the perspective of The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Ferrell as a corporate drone stuck in middle management. The Ghost works at a company whose job it is to identify and convert the self-centered “unrecoverables” by taking them on a journey through their past, present, and future.
Reynolds plays a social media spin doctor named…something. It does not matter. Because he plays the same smug, wise hustler he plays in all of his movies. I challenge you to name one character Reynolds has played in the past 10 years besides Deadpool. It’s impossible. He’s like the Ayushmann Khurrana of Hollywood. Does every film he stars in have to reshape itself to suit his sensibility?
Why couldn’t Spirited be a simple Christmas musical? why did it have to be injected, no, pump full of Reynolds’ tongue-in-cheek comedy? Musicals are meant to be serious. That’s what gives them the power to convince you that the characters can just sing and dance whenever they want, and act like it’s something they normally do. That’s why most musicals set the tone very early on, so you subconsciously accept the inner logic of the world. But Spirited feels the need to wink at the audience (almost) every time someone clears their throat to sing a number, as if to say, “Yeah, we know that’s goofy too, but hang on.”
Immediately after the first song, a few characters recognize the sudden change in tone on screen. They tell themselves (and by proxy to the public) that this is how it’s going to be. And later, when The Ghost’s “boss” feels he’s about to get into the song, he cuts him off. “There’s no need for a large number here,” he says. Is this where we are as a culture? We look for excuses to explain why people sing in musicals? And you know what’s most discouraging? Instead of ignoring his boss and continuing, The Ghost stops in his tracks and walks out of frame with a shrug. We don’t get the number after all.
It’s one thing that the song and dance sequences were staged in a way that completely lacks personality, but Spirited seems to have been based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the genre. The musicals are defined by their choreography, sweeping storytelling, and a love for big-screen cinema that oozes from virtually every frame; they’re reminiscent of a bygone era, brimming with romance even when it comes to condemned bread thieves. Musicals certainly don’t need to rely on stars or jokes that undermine their own sincerity. Ironically, what makes musicals special…is their spirit.
When Reynolds’ character realizes that he’s fundamentally caught up in the plot of A Christmas Carol — because to exist independently would rob this film of a chance for meta jokes — he asks The Ghost if his suspicions are correct, and The Ghost comes back and says yes they are. Fiery, he says, is “like the Dickens book, the Bill Murray movie and all the other adaptations nobody asked for”. The last part is true.
Director –Sean Ander
Cast – Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, Octavia Spencer, Sunita Mani, Tracy Morgan
Evaluation – 2/5