For families looking to watch something together over the holidays, this musical comedy is a gift. Getting tweens and teens to watch ye olde A Christmas Carol (at least in its classic 1951 iteration) isn't always easy. But Charles Dickens knew what was what, and his story is one for the ages -- which is exactly why filmmakers try to reinvent it for modern audiences every few years. Spirited nails the 2020s, delivering on viewers' desire for fresh content with humor that skewers everything we hate about what we've become while giving us hope that we can be better. As Clint Briggs, Reynolds is delicious and vicious, embodying the way social media has molded many people into quippy, attractively filtered trolls slinging hot takes while watching the likes rack up. Ferrell's Ghost is, as ever, a goofy man-child whose vulnerability is always showing, allowing viewers to access their own self-doubts and acknowledge their own inner lives. And co-star Octavia Spencer represents the part of us that knows that, while our own road is paved with good intentions, perhaps we wander off of it sometimes, even if, if we're honest, we did know better.
Turning "a carol" into a musical makes good sense, at least for kids who expect a more literal payoff from the title. Of course, not everyone loves a musical, and those viewers are represented by boss Jacob Marley's (Patrick Page) recurring exasperation when the singing starts (it's not really productive, after all). But the lyrics in the original songs from Oscar- and Tony-winning tunesmiths Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman) are funny, meaningful, and sometimes poignant. Even with a too-long run time, Spirited offers a fun family holiday offering that even includes a few references to the reason for the season.