Director Sean Anders
Screenplay Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, Octavia Spencer, Tracy Morgan (voice), Rose Byrne, Sunita Mani, Aimee Carrero, Patrick Page, Marlow Barkley, Joe Tippett

There aren’t many average movie musicals. They’re either a pleasant surprise or garbage. In Spirited. Sean Anders, Reynolds and Ferrell have made something that will not be thought of as a classic on the level of Elf, but it’s good enough to pacify those who have a few hours to kill on a winter night.

The story is self-aware of all of the adaptations that came before, even the one with Bill Murray and Bobcat Goldthwait. This one has Ferrell playing a permanently changed Scrooge, who became the Ghost of Christmas Present on purpose. Given the chance by HR to retire back on Earth with a normal life, he opts instead to take on one more hard case in the form of oppo researcher Clint Briggs (Reynolds).

The role of redeeming the unredeemable is now a musical factory much in the same way Santa and his elves pepare Christmas presents. The workers are all joyus in their efforts using modern technology and calling “audible” replays of events.

In the midst of his efforts with Clint, Ebenezer comes across Spencer’s Kimberly, who is one of Brigg’s top executive. Kimberly meets cute with Scrooge, revealing a crack in the space between life and the after life. Then things go off of the rails.

“You’ve been at this 200 years,” Clint tells Scrooge, “Is Mankind getting any mankinder?”

It doesn’t take too much convincing before Briggs has Scrooge enjoying the thrill of wishing people “Good Afternoon!” the way people meant it 200 years ago. Moving in and out of reality and off script, then back on script. The result of this reversal is a mixed bag.

It’s a tough gig to shift from innocent to irreverant, then on with a slew of self-referencial humor and still be something that gives someone any sort of feeling of the Christmas holiday. This one hits the mark about half of the time.

Ultimately, its nice enough if one can just ride through the cynicism to accept the message that eventually needs to be shoved down our throats. The viewer needs more than one shot at getting the right feeling while seeing someone who has to be cool at the expense of others while people like Clint’s younger brother Owen (Tippett) are left holding the bag.

Ferrell, Reynolds and Spencer do variations of the same characters we’ve seen before without having to listen to them sing somewhat average songs (aside from “Good Afternoon.” The filmmakers get credit for trying something new, even if that effort doesn’t quite make the end result more fulfilling. It just makes something similar, but not quite the same as we’re used to seeing every Christmas.

(*** out of ******)

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