Hollywood comedy hack director Sean Anders was out of absolute nowhere responsible for the rather lovely Mark Wahlberg fostering comedy Instant Family. This is the lead example this viewer also always comes back to where any discussion of truly unexpected upward quality anomalies within directors who you had previously written off come up. it was the first of his films that felt like it was drawn from personal experience by an actual human as opposed to just being assembled by mainstream comedy AI. Any suggestion that Anders might be able to fuse the more personal with broad appeal again with such effective results on paper goes out the window when you look at his newest project. A big original Christmas musical made for Apple TV starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. Yet another adaptation of A Christmas Carol adjacent story with songs by Pesek and Paul. if that does not seem like the most auto-generated pitch for a piece of mass-market entertainment this writer doesn’t know what does. That said with Anders having made one film this fan will defend to the hilt it kind of makes all of their subsequent output worthy of a chance Even if Anders’s filmography before and after Instant Family is a wasteland of terrible. In that vein is Spirited any good?
Not really. Spirited is pretty much exactly what you would expect given some of the setup described in the previous paragraph. It does admittedly have one relatively novel plot beet. In the film’s universe all the various elements that make up a standard Christmas Carol template work in an office together with festive staff on call and mementoes for all of the characters that have gone through the process of being Christmas Caroled over the centuries. It’s conceptually neat to take the logic we have seen applied to millions of on-screen incarnations of Santa and utilise it for something else equally festively ubiquitous as A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, that’s where these viewers’ praise for the film pretty much ends.
As leads in a musical Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell have the somewhat disastrous combo of only being able to play themselves in 90% of their filmography and not being trained vocalists in any way at all. This results in a typically one-note performance from both of them. Not to mentation a race down to the bottom (occupied by Pierce Brosnan’s rendition of SOS from the first Mamma Mia film) for worst on-screen singing in a musical film. They are certainly not helped by Pesek and Paul. compositions here. In this writer’s review of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (another Pesek and Paul joint) he mentioned the online backlash against the duo’s work for their style of aggressively bombastic overly poppy musical theatre. If you got an AI programmed by a bunch of Pesek and Paul. detractors to generate what they think a musical from the pair would sound like you would essentially end up with the songs from Spirited. One dimensionally desperate to create a fabricated jazz hands athletic with OTT choreography. Not to mentation an inestimable attempt to make everything sound like the final version of Defying Gravity. Of their post-Greatest Showman work (the point where they exploded into the mainstream as two of Hollywood’s three mainstream musical songwriters) it is their most blatant attempt to recapture the lightning in the bottle thus far. to be fair they seem relatively committed to this task. The set pieces are very much stranged like huge Broadway numbers with plenty of extras and choreography to go around. This was a $75 million production. Watching the finished product this reviewer was surprised it was not higher. This thing looks expensive. Those that like this variety of over-the-top musicals may get something out of it but for those familiar with the tropes of the genre we’ll see that the newest entry has very little to offer to those not already enamoured with its songwriting style. if anything this is more proof that Hollywood does need to hire more songwriters than just Pesek and Paul not forgetting Lin Manuel Miranda. Whether this will happen in the foreseeable future if any of the three creatives mentioned have a major commercial dropoff in their work remains to be seen.
Spirited is exactly what it looks to be on the surface. A blustering original Christmas musical headlined by two A-Listers who can’t Sing and are only capable of delivering a OneNote performance as themselves. Combine this with songwriters on autopilot and you have something that may appeal to very specific fans of the genre but may be hard to get into for those not already enamoured with this specific category of pop music. For all the instances where the sizable budget is decidedly on screen (not always the case for this variety of streaming movies. ) Even this viewer had options to either see the film theatrically or at home he is glad he chose the latter. Spirited may avoid worst-of-the-year contention but offers nothing particularly new or interesting (or even memorably atrocious, ) A poster child for the one kind of musical mainstream Hollywood knows how to make in 2022.