[Screen It]


(2022) (Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds) (PG-13)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Comedy/Musical: The ghost of Christmas present may have met his match when he tries to reform a man who's been labeled as irredeemable.

Having been dead for the past two centuries, a ghost known as Present (WILL FERRELL), has served the past forty-six seasons as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He and his team -- including fellow ghosts Past (SUNITA MANI) and Yet-To-Come (LOREN WOODS, voiced by TRACY MORGAN), their big boss, Marley (PATRICK PAGE), and their large support staff, annually pick one person to put through the Christmas Carol treatment and spend all year doing their research and building their props and simulations to make them have a change of heart.

This year, Present wants to tackle a subject who's been noted as being irredeemable. That would be Clint Briggs (RYAN REYNOLDS), the leader of a media consulting company that's excellent at using conflict and misinformation for the benefit of their clients, with Clint's assistant, Kimberly Parker (OCTAVIA SPENCER), being an expert at digging up dirt on those they've targeted.

But Clint ends up as anything but an easy target for the ghosts. After that man sleeps with Past, Present takes over, but may have met his match as Clint turns the tables on him and his plan.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

I've always thought it would be a blast to be the so-called fly on the wall to see how people reacted to various innovations in the past, such as the horseless carriage, the flameless light, and hearing people talking from far away in a box in your family room. The same holds true for various novels in the past that must have blown people's minds, especially the more fantastical they were, ranging from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" to Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

While the shock value of a mad scientist creating a "man" from parts of others or ghosts showing up to show a misanthrope the error of his ways is certainly diminished in today's age where we've pretty much seen and heard it all before, the best of such works still can pack a punch, especially if they work off timeless, universal themes. Dickens' story certainly fits that bill, and the testament to that is how many times it's been retold in various formats from novels to radio shows to film and TV.

Natch, some of those have put a spin on the classic material, including even turning the work into a musical. The latest version to go down that path, with some new twists of its own, is "Spirited," a lively and highly entertaining offering that might very well become an end-of-the-year classic. As directed by Sean Anders from a screenplay he co-wrote with John Morris, the story revolves around a centuries-old organization that every year selects one person on Earth they intend to reform by putting them through the Christmas Carol procedure.

With a year of setup to get all of the background research, set building, and special effects ready, they carefully select the target they believe might have the greatest going forward ripple effect should that person be redeemed and thus treat others in a respectful way. Although head honcho Marley (Patrick Page) and the rest of his team have selected a hotel manager to be "Christmas Caroled," the spirit (Will Ferrell) who's portrayed the Ghost of Christmas Present part for the past half-century has set his sights on someone else.

And that would be Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), a take-no-prisoners PR and marketing whiz with a proven track record of using conflict and misinformation to get his clients the results they handsomely pay him for. To everyone else, he's a non-starter, what with already having been identified and labeled as "irredeemable." But for Present who could retire whenever he wants and return to Earth as a living being, he likes the challenge and sees some degree of a kindred spirit in the man.

Present convinces the rest to follow his lead and after nearly a year of getting things ready, they spring the CC method on him beginning with the ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) showing up to scare him. He's startled alright, but quickly recovers and just as speedily turns the tables on her and then Past when he arrives to take over for his flustered colleague, all while the ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Be (a towering, cloaked figure embodied by Loren Woods and voiced by Tracy Morgan) waits in the wings.

What follows is Reynolds and Ferrell playing essentially just slight variations of character types they've done countless times in the past. While some viewers (and critics) might ding the film for that, I found it worked quite well and the antagonistic comedy chemistry between the two is quite entertaining. As are the various musical numbers featuring some highly catchy songs courtesy of Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who previously delivered the ditties in "La La Land").

With just the right combo of those, decent comedy, a budding love story (featuring Octavia Spencer), and some touching moments, I enjoyed the flick from start to finish and am fairly confident I had a smile or at least a grin on my face for most of the just over two-hour run time. And if you like Reynolds and Ferrell doing their usual schtick that's just icing on the cake of this delectable treat. "Spirited" is just that, and while it's not going to go down in the annals of cinedom as shocking anyone, it will for what will surely become a perennial holiday classic. It rates as a 7 out of 10.

Posted November 18, 2022

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