Rants and raves, Reviews, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Movie review: ‘Spirited’ away

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell sing and dance their way through “Spirited” en route to making a classic holiday comedy movie.

Let the Christmas movie season begin!

Contrary to first impressions, not all holiday movies this year are about:

  1. A high-powered, stressed out, high-pressure, mid-30s, professional urban woman who …
  2. Returns home to Hickville to help her Mom/Dad/kid sister/orphaned niece …
  3. To move into a rest home/restore a failing business/take over the family B&B/adopt a child …
  4. And falls in love with the hunky fireman/hunky plumber/hunky school teacher /hunky yoga teacher …
  5. Who really has a PhD/feeds the poor/is secretly wealthy/makes Christmas toys for needy kids/builds wooden boat/is Santa.

Yes, Virginia, there is a formula. Most seem to follow it.

But I have found the one that breaks up the gridlock of boring holiday films — “Spirited” on Apple +, the streaming channel.

It is a comedy/musical take on the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” that is self-referential/irreverent to a refreshing degree.

It is pretty much in the spirit of “Schmigadoon!” and “La La Land” and other musical comedies that poke fun at their own genre while laughing and tapping all the way to the bank. Add a healthy dose of Bollywood and “Scrooged,” one of my favorites.

In “Spirited,” it turns out that the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future weren’t a one-off for the benefit of Ebenezer Scrooge. With the massive backing of a cadre of other spirits working in research, logistics, computer graphics, strategy, opposition research, etc., they have been saving mean and just plain jerky people from themselves for centuries.

After hundreds of years on the A-Team, Will Ferrell as the Ghost of Christmas Present is riddled with self-doubts about the process: Is the ripple effect of saving one soul a year enough? He is supported by a Millenial Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) and the towering Ghost of Christmas Future (Loren G. Woods, with the sassy voice of Tracy Morgan).

Present meets his challenge in Ryan Reynolds, the embodiment of modern evil as a brilliant marketing guru who wins campaigns by destroying his opposition with smears, lies, exposed shames, and shit people say on social media and later regret. His Clint Briggs has been classified as “unredeemable” — not worth the expenditures in budget and personnel it would take for an uncertain result.

Briggs is so vile that he plots the demise on social media of his grade-school niece’s opponent for class president — a kid who feeds the poor with his parents, for Cripe’s sake.

For reasons that soon become poignantly apparent, Present takes on the challenge, even as HR is encouraging him to retire and his boss, Marley (Patrick Page), is adamantly opposed.

Much dancing and singing ensue and plenty of jokes about musicals, materialism, modern life, holidays, market-driven living, media de social, and … well …everything. Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds don’t exactly stretch the characters we’ve grown to love in movies. But that’s OK. Together, they make a great new Odd Couple.

Octavia Spencer is Kimberly, Briggs’ marketing major Domo who struggles with a crisis of conscience through most of the movie. How low can one go for a corner office and a six-figure paycheck? You’d be surprised.

In the end, cynicism and sarcasm notwithstanding, the jokes are so irreverent, the message is so freaking positive, and the music is so relentlessly cheery, you are left practically eager for Christmas. Bring it on, Santa/Baby Jesus/TV commercials/Black Friday forever sales!

Gotta love it.

“Spirited” is an Apple-Plus streaming original but you can find it on TV-SMA.


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4 thoughts on “Movie review: ‘Spirited’ away

  1. Rick says:

    You are too funny.
    An old screen writer once told me how they write TV series. He said just take the story line, change the characters names and location, submit and get paid. Nice that this new movie seems to be from a new funny place.
    BTW that old screen writer moved to SMA in 1975,


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