WE didn’t know Ryan Reynolds of “Deadpool” can sing and dance but here he is in the rousing musical, “Spirited” on Apple TV, doing tap dancing and singing his heart out with comedian Will Ferrell.
“Spirited” is a modern version of the classic Charles Dickens’ 1843 Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol”, where the miser Ebenezer Scrooge is redeemed by ghostly apparitions. This has had several screen adaptations, both live and animation.
“Spirited” is co-written and directed by Sean Anders of hit comedies “Horrible Bosses”, “Daddy’s Home” and “Instant Family”. In “Spirited”, Jacob Marley, the business partner of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”, is now played by Patrick Page and is the boss of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), Christmas Present (Will Ferell) and Christmas Yet-to-Come (voice by Tracy Morgan.)
Each Christmas season, they help a human being who needs redemption. This year, their subject is Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), a ruthless New York media practitioner who creates online scandals and a spin doctor who has no compunction in ruining the lives of other people just to achieve his own goals.
Marley believes he is a hopeless case and can no longer be redeemed. But Christmas Present thinks otherwise. He believes Clint is not totally unredeemable and he himself can help redeem Clint to make a ripple effect that will bring positive change to other jaded people.
Christmas Present has been doing his job for two centuries and Marley says he can now retire and return to normal life, but he refuses to do so. In the process, we get to learn more about Clint’s past life.
He had an irresponsible mother who made him think she gave him a puppy he asked for a Christmas present when it’s non-existent. His older sister is dying from the big C and tries to leave her daughter under Clint’s care, but he rejects the idea and entrusts his niece to his younger brother.
When his niece later asks for his help in campaigning as class president, he asks his assistant, Kimberly (Octavia Spencer), to look for something that will ruin the reputation of her niece’s rival for the position.
Christmas Past tries to work on Clint but he seduces her, so Christmas Present takes over. Clint does his best to resist him and things get complicated when Christmas Present gets romantically attracted to Kimberly. The complications will eventually find the most amiable solutions and what helps the viewers in getting there are the well conceived and choreographed song and dance numbers.
The best number is a big production involving a lot of street ensemble dancers in period costumes, “Good Afternoon”, where Ryan Reynold sings ala-Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady” and the number also pays homage to the classic “Oliver”. Oliver Twist pops up asking for more food and the delightful Judy Dench appears in a rollicking cameo where Ryan and Will acknowledge her as a national treasure.
Will Ferrell has done one of the best Christmas movies ever, “Elf”, and he is familiar with Anders who directed him in “Daddy’s Home 1 and 2”, so they really work well together. He has a great solo number, “Irredeemable”. His character as Christmas Present has a big surprise twist into it and it’s really very clever. Of course, we cannot reveal it here. You have to find out for yourself.
Ryan is an absolute delight as Clint, who doesn’t want to be redeemed, delivering his lines with the right tinge of sarcasm and obviously having a blast doing his musical numbers. Other crowd-pleasing numbers are “The View from Here” by Octavia Spencer, “Do a Little Good” and the final song, “Ripple”, that makes “Spirited” the holiday movie of the yuletide season.