Spirited parents guide

Spirited Parent Guide

Overstuffed with faux holiday cheer and far too many musical numbers, this is not the sunny family-friendly adaptation most parents will expect.

Overall C

Apple TV+: Based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a miserly businessman is taken on a journey through the past, present, and future.

Release date November 18, 2022

Violence B-
Sexual Content B-
Profanity C
Substance Use B

Why is Spirited rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Spirited PG-13 for language, some suggestive material and thematic elements.

Run Time: 127 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Every year, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) chooses some malicious soul on Earth to be subjected to three ghostly visits, hoping to reform the person’s character and improve the world for everyone. With the help of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) and Christmas Yet-To-Come (Tracy Morgan), Present has managed to reform a lot of people in his 200-plus years on the job. But this year, he wants to make a bigger splash: He wants to try and save a man so unpleasant, his file has been marked “Unredeemable”. Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), the man in question, works as a PR consultant, manufacturing scandal, sowing division, and generally making the world as unpleasant as possible, just to make a buck. If the three spirits can turn his life around, Briggs could have a positive impact on the lives of millions – if the spirits can put up with him long enough to fix him.

Despite being thoroughly overstuffed with Christmas cheer, the only emotion this film left me with was unbridled hostility. For starters, just because it’s a musical is no excuse to cram three irritating musical numbers into the first fifteen minutes. Second, there’s even less excuse to make a Christmas musical that’s over two hours long – especially since this movie could have been thoroughly wrapped up in 90 minutes without losing anything of value. Frankly, I think it could have been wrapped up in zero minutes without losing anything of value, but I’m not sure that was an option. And it’s a slow two hours, to boot.

As far as family audiences are concerned, this PG-13 movie adaptation might not be the squeaky clean holiday entertainment you were expecting. I definitely don’t recall any scatological profanity in the original novella and Charles Dickens didn’t include a subplot where the Ghost of Christmas Past hooks up with the person who needs to be reformed. Off-screen or not, that’s a weird twist to throw in here.

I suppose the upside of all this is that, if some enterprising individual were to attach some conductors to Charles Dickens’ rapidly spinning corpse, you could probably provide free energy to a large city. The original Christmas Carol is a work focused primarily on the evils of child poverty and reckless greed – issues which this film is not particularly interested in, preferring instead to focus on interpersonal behaviour. Sure, it would be great if we could all be a little kinder to one another here. But I’m not about to give the obscenely rich PR rep a break because he decided to stop ignoring his niece without addressing his hideous corporate record. And neither would Dickens, for that matter.

Directed by Sean Anders. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, Octavia Spencer. Running time: 127 minutes. Theatrical release November 18, 2022. Updated

Watch the trailer for Spirited

Rating & Content Info

Why is Spirited rated PG-13? Spirited is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for language, some suggestive material and thematic elements.

Violence: Several characters are slapped. A man falls from a great height but survives. A man is set on fire. A character is hit by a bus and killed. There is a reference to child suicide.
Sexual Content: There are references to sexual behaviour which happens off-screen. A man is seen from the shoulders up in the shower.
Profanity: There are five uses of scatological profanity, and frequent uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are seen drinking socially.

Page last updated

Spirited Parents' Guide

What kinds of issues concerned Charles Dickens in his writing? How did he explore those ideas? Does this film interact with any of them? How do other adaptations of this story handle Dickens’ cutting social critique? How are issues in industrial Victorian England still relevant today?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

You can read the original A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for free online here:

Project Gutenberg: A Christmas Carol

In her YA novel, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, author Cynthia Hand provides a family-friendly spin on the traditional tale. The titular heroine is the new Ghost of Christmas Past who unexpectedly falls in love with a teenage boy who needs to be reformed.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

One of the best adaptations, and easily the best musical adaptation, of Dickens’ story is The Muppet Christmas Carol. A musical approach was also taken in a more artistic direction with the 2021 A Christmas Carol. Other versions include Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and1951’s A Christmas Carol. The Man Who Invented Christmas takes a look at how Charles Dickens wrote the original story.