Will Ferrell’s signature comedic style is halfway between obnoxious and endearing, with the exuberant energy of a naïve man-child matched by his fearless disregard for dignity. Anyone who has lost that personality should find something to enjoy livelyFerrell’s bid to sit alongside another holiday perennial headliner Elf. Their delivery is inspiring and their chemistry with Ryan Reynolds plays the smarmy Scrooge in this busy 21st century riff. A Christmas Carol, Octavia has plenty of fizz, even if the romance with Spencer’s character isn’t predictable. But is the movie good?
It depends on how closely you identify with the delicious disdain of Patrick Page, the chain-rattling Jacob Marley upholding the Dickensian tradition, who rolls his eyes and begs to be taken back every time someone bursts into song. Because, it’s musical too.
The bottom line
Despite itself, entertainment.
Unlike Marley, I love movie music. But it’s a movie musical made by filmmakers — director Sean Anders and co-writer John Morris, then reteaming with Ferrell. father’s house Jokes — They have no idea how film music works. Songs rarely sprout organically from the narrative, often feeling shoehorned in to dial up the excitement. Chloe Arnold’s choreography makes her even more elusive – her regular gig The Late Late Show with James Corden — It’s all about frenetic movement, never about dance as a storytelling device.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, formerly musical collaborators Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land And The Greatest Showman, competent tunesmiths, so the songs aren’t bad, even if the composer’s love of big-emphasis songs is tiring. Except for the pageboys who have a lot of musical theater experience, none of the leads can really sing, though they more or less do.
But the production numbers are so eye-rolling, it’s easy to imagine viewers fast-forwarding to the film’s November 18 arrival on Apple TV+ after a week in theaters — because those raucous musical interludes push what might otherwise be witty comedy. The two hour mark.
The film and its title seem like a tip of the hat to the 1988 Bill Murray vehicle, Scrooged. But Ferrell eschews that legendary misanthrope’s lip-smacking villain in favor of the traditional secondary character, the Ghost of Christmas Present. Working side-by-side with Marley, Christmas Past (Sunita Mani), Christmas Yet-To-Come (Lorraine Woods, with the voice of Tracy Morgan) and a massive support team, they are part of a vital mission, selecting the right candidates for redemption each holiday season.
The “present” is long overdue for retirement and HR is pushing him to return to human form on Earth and live out his remaining years. But before he takes that step, the current one wants to make a difference, not just another single person reforming but whose ruthlessness has a global reach. They find just the man in Clint Briggs (Reynolds), a soulless marketing maverick who specializes in creating controversy, conflict and misinformation. “Feed that hate” is their motto.
“He’s like the perfect combination of Mussolini and Seacrest!” triggers the present. But Marley is unconvinced, describing Clint as a “level-20 pain in the ass” and tagging File as “irredeemable”. Only once before has Redeemable been successfully placed through the program, and it doesn’t take long to return to Olde England to figure out who it is. But you know we’ll get one anyway.
At every turn, Clint proves Marley right, especially when he agrees to help his orphaned niece Wren (Marlo Barkley) get elected student council president, while his resourceful executive assistant Kimberly (Spencer) digs up dirt on the kid’s popular rival. Inking an 8th grade boy is all in a day’s work for Clint, but Kimberly has a conscience and of course she’s going to sing about it.
That song, “The View From Here”, is a perfect example of the film’s cluelessness about basic musical mechanics. In a role that underplays her sparkling gift for comedy, Spencer sings about Kimberly’s misery — sometimes like Crocs, takes a paycheck and pretends not to care about the lives she’s destroying. It’s an intimate moment of painful introspection, but Anders and Arnold have office workers twirling like a Martha Graham dancer on meth.
Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to bother Present, who is impressed by Kimberly’s personal reflections and discovers that he’s the first person other than a perp to actually see and hear him. This lays the groundwork for one of the more underdeveloped aspects of the Anders and Morris script, the shy romance.
A more consistent focus is given to Present’s determination to find a chink in Clint’s armor of cynicism, a promise he made to his dying sister (Andrea Anders) years ago. But Clint is not intimidated by the present or any of his ghost companions. Instead, he turns the tables on them, finding himself a particularly malleable plaything when he starts grilling the present about his own past.
This creature A Christmas Carol, we know that no matter how convoluted the plot is, it emerges with lessons learned and dark souls brought to light. The film makes some solid points about how online culture has fostered an epidemic of meanness and how choosing kindness isn’t a single step but a gradual process within all of us. A big all-stops-out finale, “Do a Little Good” is the best of the songs and an effective delivery method for that holiday message.
The film is certainly colorful enough, although the fantasy version of Christmastime Manhattan looks as flat and artificial as Victorian London. It all feels like a department store holiday window display, nothing more real than the CG-heavy ghost world inhabited by the haunting team.
Morgan’s voice work provides a few laughs, which come under the grim reaper-style cloak of a yet-to-be-coming Christmas, and a few star guests help build interest. But lively Its buoyancy is owed primarily to Ferrell and Reynolds’ sizzling rapport, ultimately showcasing the film’s most convincing love story.
Reynolds’ glib stick is framed here as an unrepentant, greed-driven a-hole who’s never faced a situation he can’t manipulate to his advantage. But somehow, Present’s naivety reveals the humanity that remains in him.
Ferrell, who gets the best lines, many of which are just throwaways, is an innocent strain of existential crisis, a place of chaos and confusion where the comedian thrives. I can almost forgive all the oafish musical diarrhea for the joy of watching the ancient spirit on TV and proclaiming in a voice filled with wonderful discovery: “I think I may have moderate to severe Crohn’s disease!”