One of the first films that come to mind when you see what Apple TV’s Spirited (2022) is all about is It’s a Wonderful Life. The Frank Capra feature has become an annual Christmas delight for families, so much so that it plays a tradition-like part in the holidays. The philosophical core of the film is so universal and timeless that it not just endures, but thrives with the clock turning. Spirited sets out with a similar mindset and has all the elements and sensibilities to match its aspirations.

Will Ferrel and Ryan Reynolds provide immense star power and charm. Their central performances are always capable of compensating for a narrative’s imperfections and Spirited definitely needs that. The songs, easy-to-digest story, and a middle path toward the ending steer Spirited in the right direction. Its core message is perhaps a bit repetitive and something we have seen done before but Spirited’s USP is the confluence of Dickens with the magic of moviemaking.

And that does not turn out to be a happy coincidence. Spirited truly imbibes the essence of Dicken’s simple writing and a morally ambiguous intellectual conclusion that is surprisingly self-aware and hence repels the conventional tackiness that disturbs works like these. The “goody-good” feels are essential drivers for a family-oriented flick and Anders can perhaps be forgiven for that. For those viewers whose palate has refreshingly changed to seeing gore, blood, and darkness on screen, Anders’ ideas might feel a bit suffocating. That is not the director’s fault but a key marker for the changing times.

Spiritied’s setting can definitely be called modern but also somewhat frozen in time. There are worthwhile flashbacks to the original fable of Ebenezer Scrooge (Ferrel actually is a “redeemed” version of Scrooge). The story format and how it transitions from the different phases definitely feels old style. Director Sean Anders keeps up the commonplace traditions of musicals to instantly break out into songs but none of those numbers feel misplaced. The context in which they unfurl always seems to benefit from them. But the most exciting deviation is the grand cinematic twist that makes a franchise a tangible possibility.

Spirited (2022) Movie Review

Anders’ confidence in sticking with the formulae gives a nostalgic cover to Spirited. He is not afraid to liken his work to other Christmas stories about goodness and the chequered nature of morality, while most certainly taking direct cues from musicals for specifics. One of the most irritating things in the numbers was the tap dancing. In each scene, you could easily spot a few dancers up on the tables sporting big camera smiles and tapping the sh*t out of the wood. The sync with which they move is quite creepy and present as a necessary evil. And what was that with Reynolds trying to copy Gosling’s moves from La La Land in the climactic showdown? You will know it when you see it.

Ferrel and Reynolds cultivate a “bromance” to get behind. They make the archetype characters into lovable portraits of lonely people angry at themselves that we root for. Even when the dialogues are off and the scene is moving away from Anders’ control, these two pull it back and “redeem” them. While their comic timing remains pristine and the little underhand throwdowns to film stereotypes breezy, their singing turns out to be a surprise. In fact, the others as well, including Octavia Spencer and Patrick Page, sound quite okay on the mic. The stars of the film are undeniably Ferrel and Reynolds and Apple will get a lot of takers just for those two.

Spirited has released at the perfect time. Christmas is quite religiously scrutinized by the film industry from various angles. This film falls in an unlikely bracket where the motivations are strangely noble and “clean”. It has somewhat become a lost tradition for filmmakers to come out with films on Christmas that celebrate the old-fashioned meaning of the festivities. Movies on the holiday are no longer about family and togetherness and the bid for every human being to be kind. That push to nurture compassion amongst each other and within is easily branded idealistic. While in my eyes it is Spirited’s biggest strength, it also becomes Spirited’s biggest weakness as well.

That is the only downside for Spirited. It can be too simple for one’s taste at times. The debauchery of modern filmmaking has sort of spoiled our taste buds for the extreme form of things. The fact that Spirited not selling sex, violence, and perversity can be an issue for today’s viewer says a lot about our times. For all that it is worth, Spirited is a magnificent revival of much-needed traditions that promote values and betterment of society and the individual, making a unique framework that works well for both.

Read More: Causeway [2022] Review

Spirited (2022) Movie Trailer

Spirited (2022) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Spirited (2022) Movie Cast – Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Patrick Page, Sunita Mani
Where to watch Spirited

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