Spirited (2022)

Quick synopsis: A musical version of Charles Dickens’ story of a miserly misanthrope who’s taken on a magical journey.

It can’t have escaped your attention that there are quite a few streaming services available, and they all need a hook to justify their own existence. Netflix has Stranger Things (and good branding), Amazon Prime has more recent movies (and the ability to add digital purchases to it), Shudder has horror (and also a shocking customer service team, but that’s a story for another time), Mubi has an extensive range of foreign-language cinema and independent films (as well as a sending you a notification when a film on your list is leaving), whereas AppleTV+ has…………yeah I’m not sure. I’m currently on a free trial of it, and it has a select few things, but nothing that makes me think it’s going to be worth paying for while the trial ends. It is aiming big though, and this film is an example of this. You don’t hire Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell if you’re not aiming for mass-market appeal.

I’m not really sure this is going to be the film to break Apple into the next level. I mean, it’s funny, and it is good at what it does. But it’s not essential. It also hasn’t really been advertised much, a film like this needs to be unavoidable to the point of being annoying. If this has any hope of becoming a Christmas cult classic, it needs to be everywhere, it needs an audience. It also needs to be fun.

It at least achieves that. It’s almost two hours long, but doesn’t feel it. That’s helped by the music being very good. Music is a big part of Christmas films, think of how much the music improves Home Alone or The Muppets Christmas Carol. This is a musical, so obviously the songs are even more important. I can only remember one song from it. I try to remember more and all I get is the one from Community. Outside of a few songs I can’t see listening to the soundtrack in full, you can probably cut all of the songs from here and it wouldn’t affect the story that much. It makes it feel like the script was written, and then the songs were handled separately and inserted randomly, and nobody likes random insertions (citation needed). I get why this film is a musical, Christmas films have a higher allowance for joy and music than others. But it doesn’t really work for me, I think part of that might be because, let’s be honest, Will Ferrell isn’t a great singer. At least they have a logical reason for it to be a musical. Apparently the afterlife is a musical, so whilst heaven isn’t clarified as existing, hell does.The script could be improved too. There’s nothing inherently bad are embarassing about it, but moments could be better. Ryan Reynolds establishing character moment should be better. The movie talks about him being irredeemable, but doesn’t show it. He has moments of heartlessness, but not enough. Yes, he lies, manipulates, and stokes fear/division, but that doesn’t make him the worst person in the world, it just makes him someone involved in sales.

On the plus side, this film does have the suicide of a child in it. I didn’t think it would include that, but it does. So that shows that it’s not afraid to get dark and disturbing when it needs to, so if they did that at the start it would make his character arc more effective. I appreciate it taking a new angle on the cliche Christmas Carol plot. It approaches it in a way that works, and makes sense in-universe if you don’t think about it too much. I like a fresh take on something I’ve seen before as it makes it easy to compare and notice the strengths. The strengths are that it’s funny, has some great scenes (the opening is the best way for this film to open), and is unique.

But that also highlights the weaknesses. The biggest weakness being, of course, that it’s a comedic musical film based on Christmas Carol, and the best one possible was already made in 1992. You can’t be better than that, and it’s just not different enough to work.

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