The following includes spoilers for the current Apple TV+ streaming release of “Spirited.”
It was not intended for “Spirited” to have its most extravagant scene. In the original writing, it was just intended as a joke.
However, in the five-minute musical performance “Good Afternoon,” Dame Judi Dench makes a self-referential appearance in addition to Will Ferrell tap dancing on a collapsed wall and Ryan Reynolds singing in a horrible cockney accent.
Regarding the scene that steals the show, director Sean Anders explains, “We intended to make this one the most humorous song in the movie.” “It’s just so much fun, but it required a lot of effort because it’s so outrageous and ludicrous and has so many moving components.”
Midway through the meta-movie-musical, which retells “A Christmas Carol” with a number of changes, is when the highlight moment appears. The ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) is now being frustrated by the story’s resident Scrooge, sceptical media analyst Clint Briggs (Reynolds), who questions if overnight changes are genuinely effective.
Clint and the audience quickly discover that Present was the actual Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ 1843 tale as they are shortly transported to Victorian London. That night, three spirits undoubtedly saved him, but he also passed just a short while after.
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“Spirited,” an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” for Apple TV+, stars Ryan Reynolds as the local Ebenezer Scrooge.
Victorian-era couples being married on a set.
In “Spirited,” the greeting “good afternoon” has a derogatory connotation that at one point causes a wedding to fall apart.
(Apple, Claire Folger)
“Present is trying to change this person who thinks people never change, but deep down, he has that same dread, since he isn’t sure he has truly changed either,” Anders explains. He and co-writer John Morris did this to both nod to Dickens’ famous narrative and also create a fresh conflict.
The miserly grouch then interrupts discussions with a gruff welcome that shocks spectators due to its vulgarity, which Clint then observes. “Good afternoon” was a sick burn in the 1800s, according to Present. It essentially said, “F— you. really graphic
The seemingly innocent statement is not, in fact, an old slur. However, Ferrell notes that that is what Dickens had Scrooge yell at many other characters in earlier productions of “A Christmas Carol” from the 1940s and 1950s, “and they use that language as if it were a horrible term.” Reynolds proposed turning the joke into a song where Clint attempts to get Present to let free and act like his old, unredeemed self.
“Leans into the fact that Ryan is an excellent troll in real life, and Will is so wonderful at squirming and acting uncomfortable,” says Justin Paul of the song, which he co-wrote with Benj Pasek, Khiyon Hursey, Sukari Jones, and Mark Sonnenblick in a type of writers’ room. Every night, Hursey remembers, “we were all working together in a 20-page Google Doc, trying to figure out the greatest lines and making each other’s gags better and better.”
On Boston’s historic Marshall Street, the massive set piece was shot over the course of four days. Beginning with a “nice day” in a bar, Clint causes mayhem. Present concedes, and the two hurl the welcome at everyone in the vicinity. They disrupt a wedding, swear at a policeman, and scream together at a beggar youngster straight out of “Oliver”! Just hate them with dignity like you’re Judi freaking Dench, she sings in a quick walk past, delivering a line that was intended for Reynolds and Ferrell but never intended for the film icon herself.
In front of a large audience, two guys are seen tap dancing on a platform.
Both Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell participated in their own dance routines, including their first attempts at tap dancing.
(Claire Folger / Apple Courtesy)
Later, the boisterous pair lead a hostile procession along a cobblestone street before starting a brief tap dance atop a collapsed wall. Reynolds and Ferrell both had never tapped before, so they both worked with a tap instructor, Jason Luks in Reynolds’ case and Jason Holley in Ferrell’s.
Because you’re actually up against your own physical limits, Reynolds claims that the tap was the most challenging task for him to do. You’re not just dancing; you’re also an instrument, producing a clear percussive sound that is essential to the music. It’s a special discipline that isn’t very forgiving.
Ferrell adds. Other steps may be learned at half or quarter speed before being performed at full speed. To achieve that sound, though, you must start off moving quickly; there are no baby steps. Although we ultimately enjoyed it, we truly pushed ourselves in ways we never imagined we could.
The key performers’ dedication surprised choreographer Chloe Arnold despite the challenge. They both put forth a lot of effort to execute those techniques, and according to her, they never once complained. “Instead, they were incredibly enthusiastic during every rehearsal, and even on long shoot days, they never got tired of doing another take. To prepare for the following number, they even offered to practice on the weekends.
Clint and Present sing and dance in harmony with the audience as the ambitious portion comes to a close. They had become closer because of their diabolical detour. “It took a lot of effort, but are we happy that we finished it? Yes, quite much,” responds Reynolds.
I’m now also addicted to tap,” he adds. “I recall texting Hugh Jackman after we finished filming this big number and telling him, ‘OK, I get it. I understand your passion for this particular style of art since it deserves to develop and is really unique.