2023 saw a musical release of the Nativity Story, which I critiqued in a previous review. A different musical, Spirited, released on Apple+, and was enjoyed by audiences in 2022. I recently had the opportunity to reflect about the musical and enjoy it on a dark and cold autumn night. The musical movie is a contemporary adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, wherein the miserly scrooge receives a visit from three angels of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Yet-to-Come). The spirits, the main one being played by Will Ferrell, calls these visits hauntings. The scrooge, Clint, played by Brian Reynolds, is considered an “unredeemable.” This secular story created for secular audiences hints at religious themes and considerations.
The main plot is about conversion of life. An “unredeemable” is one for whom there seems to be no hope and that they will never be a good person. It could be rightly asked, “Do people change?” Our answer, with the virtue of hope, is yes. People can change whether it is being confronted by their past or having an immediate awakening about their life. I’m sure there are some people who, as they are reaching the end of their life, wish that they could have another chance to make different decisions and to make amends.
As people become unsatisfied with their current state, they might question whether they have changed for the better. With the help of family or friends, they can offer a perspective and help a person as they try to change the direction of their life. As Clint sees his various life events unfold, he realizes how terrible of a person he has been in his treatment of others. One scene, played out in a hospital, becomes a pivotal moment for this realization. As Clint continues to be confronted by visions of his past, he asks, “With all the wrongs I am running from, can I leave my worse behind?” This is an image of true conversion: running from our past, leaving our worst behind, and embracing the promise of a better tomorrow. As Catholics, we know conversion begins in the confessional when we acknowledge our sinfulness and ask for God’s mercy and grace to live a better life.
As one understands their past actions another realization might be had. Because of something we have done, we may have adversely affected the life of another. Clint realizes that his poor choices had an impact on the lives of others. He sees how his bad advice led to a person making a drastic decision about their own life. A spiritual practice I have often employed has been to pray for healing for those whom I have hurt by my words and actions. I may not be aware of it myself, but some person might be carrying hurt and woundedness because of me.
Spirited reminds us that even if we have experienced a conversion and become redeemable, we can easily fall back into old habits. If this happens, it is important not to dwell on the fall or failure, but to consciously seek forgiveness and continue one’s ongoing conversion throughout life.
When I was a young person, I used to think that the afterlife would be a replay of our lives and God would show us the bad we chose and the good we failed to do. This is what Dickens’s classic work and this contemporary musical bring out for the viewer. In some sense it is a judgement, where one gives an account of their life. The difference here is there is still a chance for conversion.
Spirited is a new take on an old and familiar story that allows us to grapple with a constant theme of the spiritual life—conversion. How will Spirited spark your conversion of life? If the spirit of Christmas Past, Present, or Future (Yet-to-Come) were to visit you, what moments of life would you be shown, and how would you respond?
Can a Catholic Watch Spirited?
There are a few sexual innuendos in the film. Also, Will Farrell’s character spoke about going back to earth to live his life. This would be reincarnation and is not a theological belief within the Catholic Christian tradition. A viewer should be mindful that we do not believe this.
Fr. Looney’s Rating of Spirited
7 out of 10