Get ‘Spirited’ away with fun, holiday entertainment

As far as entertainment goes, the holidays aren’t complete without seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform its pyrotechnics-fueled rock show, marveling at the comedic genius of Chevy Chase in 1989’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and scouring the Internet for a leg lamp to purchase while watching the 1983 cinematic staple that is “A Christmas Story.” 

All of these amusements are synonymous with Christmas, but there’s another one I regularly consume during the waning days of December that can’t be overlooked, which is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

This classic story was published Dec. 19, 1843, and Dickens wrote it in only six weeks. The initial printing of 6,000 copies sold out in a week.

Though Dickens was strapped for cash at the time, he didn’t intend to write a classic. He scrawled the iconic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge in response to a government report on child labor in the United Kingdom he had read. His goal was to bring attention to the plight of child labor and how employers treated their workers.

The subsequent social commentary inspired hope of redemption. If Scrooge can change, anyone can change, even if they don’t have the guidance from three spirits. 

Such a message proved to be so powerful, that “A Christmas Carol” has been adapted for film and television more than 100 times, according to the National Endowment for the Arts

A perennial favorite is “Scrooged,” which stars Bill Murray, but another version of the story has just landed on my yearly watchlist.

And the best part? It’s a musical.

The film is “Spirited.” Directed by Sean Anders, it stars Ryan Reynolds, Will Farrell, and Octavia Spencer, with support from the likes of Rose Bryne and Tracy Morgan.

Debuting in the middle of November 2022, the movie takes Scrooge’s original experience and turns it into a business led by Jacob Marley (played by Patrick Page). Every year as Christmas approaches, the three Christmas spirits haunt a person in need of redemption like Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Present (played by Ferrell) is about ready to retire, but he wants to go out with a big victory. This leads him to pick Clint Briggs (played by Reynolds), who is a heartless media consultant that makes a living by causing conflict.

Briggs is classified as an “unredeemable,” or someone incapable of changing, but the Ghost of Christmas Present is set on saving him, so, along with the Ghost of Christmas Past (played by Sunita Mani) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (voiced by Morgan), that’s what he aims to do.

With such a clever and unique premise setting the stage, the film simultaneously feels new and exciting while also remaining wonderfully familiar.

“Spirited” is funny, which is to be expected if Reynolds and Ferrell are involved, but it has heart. Even though the outcome is predictable for the most part, there is an interesting wrinkle that makes it unique, just as the reveal about the only other “unredeemable” to be saved did.

As Brian Tallerico, editor of RogerEbert.com, pointed out, the production felt like a filmed stage show rather than a movie, but that added to the charm. It overflowed with energy, which was driven by the stellar cast and the fun musical numbers.

Sure, Reynolds and Ferrell might not be natural signers, but the music was fantastic. That’s thanks to the due of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are the musical geniuses behind “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman,” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”

In fact, I liked the music so much that I immediately downloaded the album and have been listening to it frequently. It was the soundtrack to my Thanksgiving holiday. 

Regardless, the story is what brings me back to the movie again and again. After multiple viewings, I fall in love with this film more and more. It isn’t perfect, but it is fun. The holidays should be a time of joy, and this movie is full of joy. 

So despite negative reviews from CNN, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among others, I fully recommend checking out “Spirited,” which has a runtime of 2 hours and 7 minutes and carries a PG-13 rating. 

Of course, it is an Apple TV+ original film, so you do have to be a subscriber to watch the rollicking fun. It only costs $6.99 per month, though, so signing up still costs less than a trip to the theater and gives you the chance to see this unique take on the Dickens classic.

Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.

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About toddvogts 807 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, MJE, is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, among others. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at twitter.com/toddvogts or via his website at www.toddvogts.com.