Scrooged Again: Ryan Reynolds’ ‘Spirited’ Take on the Dickens Classic Reinforces Its Enduring Appeal
Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell in 'Spirited,' now streaming on Apple TV+. Photo: Courtesy of AppleTV+
In a world of uncertainty, Christmas movies offer comfort.
After a long year full of war, polarizing politics and climate catastrophes, solace-seeking viewers will get their usual dose of positivity when yet another iteration of the Christmas-loathing curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge comes to Netflix. This animated Scrooge is voiced by Luke Evans in Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, following in the big cartoon footsteps of Alan Young in Scrooge McDuck (1947), Jim Backus in Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) and Alastair Sim in an animated version of A Christmas Carol — a 1971 cartoon buried down deep in my psyche and so scary that it actually premièred on Halloween.
There are probably a thousand reasons that Charles Dickens’ novella has proven timeless, but just one that comes to mind at this moment is the story’s clever pandering to both the religious and the secular. Whether you love or loathe Christmas, A Christmas Carol understands completely.
Add in some evergreen universal messages about goodwill and social equality — as poignant in 2022 as it was upon its publication in 1843, perhaps even more so — and it’s no wonder the Scrooges show no signs of slowing. Michael Caine, Kelsey Grammer, Jim Carrey, Christopher Plummer and even Vanessa Williams have put their own twists on the grumpy miser in different eras and forms. Get a few eggnogs into me and I’ll happily argue, rather convincingly, that The Grinch is just Scrooge painted green.
Scrooge has been many things to many people, but never this, um, sexy thanks to Canadian It-Boy Ryan Reynolds in the November release, Spirited. The Apple TV+ film trades that unfortunate 18th-century nightgown for a sleek tuxedo on its version of Ebenezer Scrooge, a modern-day media consultant and unredeemable soul named Clint Briggs. He’s paired with hilarious SNL alum Will Ferrell as the time-travelling Christmas ghost who must convince Briggs to change his ways, and they’ll do it all via song-and-dance. Even the practice session went viral on social media for thirsty Reynolds fans — most of all his wife, actress Blake Lively, who commented, “Can you get pregnant while pregnant?” (If anyone can, it’s her, currently baking up baby number four.)
Santa’s the man of the season, but Reynolds is riding hot on his coattails. It’s been another big year for the Vancouver-born Deadpool star and well-known nice guy, not just for the baby-making and box office success, but also for buying a Welsh soccer team and reinvigorating it, Ted-Lasso-style. No less than the King of England visited the Wrexham soccer pitch recently to meet Reynolds and team co-owner Rob McElhenney.
Watching Reynolds as a selfish, materialistic, narcissist is especially fun knowing he’s a devoted family-man and mushy #girldad in real life. Will Ferrell, meanwhile, is also enjoying a rare long-lasting Hollywood marriage and three boys between 12 and 18, probably thanks to this wise fatherly advice the Elf star told People back in 2008: “For me, talk to your children, at least once a week.”
Or, even better, sit ‘em down and make ‘em watch Scrooge and learn the meaning of Christmas. Or don’t. If you got the syrupy sweet point long ago, it’s fine to skip the Christmas mush in favour of less likely holiday hits. Die Hard comes to mind, as does Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, the very R-rated The Ref, starring Denis Leary, and — my personal favourite — Gremlins, starring Gizmo. How does a black horror comedy about a fuzzy mogwai, who hatches evil goblins if you feed him after midnight, become a beloved holiday tradition? It’s a Christmas miracle.