The story of A Christmas Carol is a tale as old as time; a classic piece of literature that focuses on a profound journey of self-discovery, redemption, compassion, finding happiness, and second chances. Making a musical out of the story and updating it for modern audiences isn’t exactly the most far-fetched thing you could do with it….
….but it doesn’t do Spirited a lot of favors for this season, spending on who you are.
What the plot here gives us is actually both a neat premise and somewhat of a solid rendition of the story: having Ebenezer Scrooge become the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Christmas spirits going out their way to redeem a new soul every year and Ryan Reynolds just so happens to be the new Ebenezer. The thing I like about this films structure is how easily they roll with the musical aspect of the tale so effortfully and without hesitation and in a way, it still respects the roots of the original story while updating it for modern audiences. I guess I can give Sean Anders some credit for figuring out how to film musical numbers that feel like a staged spectacular while still existing within the confines of a feature film and have it vaguely feel like it works. His actual direction leaves little to be desired but he gives off the impression like it’s all supposed to go together.
The costumes don’t disappoint, there’s hardly a wasted shot in the camerawork or editing department (even if both are fairly basic) and despite my thoughts on ad-lib comedy (aggravating dialogue notwithstanding), I can’t deny that the cast work as well off each other as they could.
It is very very eager to entertain you by any means necessary which is as much of a detriment as it is a compliment. As it owes a lot to the Golden Era of screwball comedies, a lot of what we see is a precarious use of manufactured awkwardness, rotoscoped sequences and the cynical meta-awareness that has dominated modern times…..and very few of it sticks. The songs are harmless but rather forgettable even without the decent choreography and even with THREE standouts. It’s both over-the-top and passé at once to where it crosses into Broadway territory and while it was cool the first time around, the sheen wore off quick; especially whenever the writing has that Broadway tendency to hit a few of the same beats over and over again.
Yes, the production design and settings look either cheap or nullified by the green screen. Yes, the film often stretches itself out a half-an-hour longer than it probably should. Yes, the effects are distractingly uncanny and break the immersion but those I can be convinced to overlook if the overall narrative worked.
I appreciate this attempt at trying to honor both Clint and Scrooge’s arcs equally and balance the traditional Christmas Carol template by bridging them between past and present but could you have at least tried to make it a little cleaner? It’s both visually and narratively disjointed between the haphazard character arcs, a confusing love sideplot amongst the many others, a severe lack of organization and it makes the entire journey just a little bit tedious to trudge through. Even if you don’t hate anything about it, the pacing eventually wears on your mind.
Part of me loves how self-aware the movie is at certain points but between the ‘I’m so random’ wackiness, actively stopping itself to smile for the cameras and the confusing set of rules that exist in both the ghost world and the real one, there’s never a balance between having some zany fun and needing to dial the hell down when it needs to to get back to the root of the story. I’m glad the film has fun while it can but I think it enjoys itself a little too much and as a result, the initial dramatic impact this story could’ve felt is lost.
Regardless of my complaints, it’s a pretty comfortable watch, all things considered. Its heart is in the right place despite its community theater-esque presentation and I know there’s people out there who’ll eat this up regardless so….what the hell, it’s Christmas. I did my part, I had some fun and if you don’t like that, you can suck my Dickens, son!