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The Huge Problem ‘Spirited’ Could Have Avoided (and Made Families Happy)

Apple TV+'s yuletide original is suitable for all ages ... but only to a point

The Old Man (Darren McGavin) unleashes a string of curses in 1983’s “A Christmas Story.”

“My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master,” young Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley, explains in the Yuletide classic.

Except audiences didn’t hear a single slur. And Ralphie apes his Old Man later in the film during the schoolyard fight scene.

Once again, not a slur can be heard.

The Fight | A Christmas Story | TBS

The Bob Clark-directed film turns all that profanity into gobbledygook, sparing families from the curses in question. It’s an ingenious touch, one of many that made “Story” an all-ages treat for the holidays.

Spirited,” the “Christmas Carol” spinoff starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, can’t duplicate that feat. The comic musical follows the Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) as he tries to redeem a morally broken soul (Reynolds).

Spirited — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

The film offers sweet lessons on “teamwork and perseverance,” plus a warning about social media’s misuse, according to the left-leaning Common Sense Media. There’s no sex or nudity, and clearly Team Apple TV+ hopes audiences will watch the film year after year, much like they do with “A Christmas Story.”

The film is a far cry from “Fatman,” “Bad Santa,” “Violent Night” and other hard-R rated Christmas movies meant to counter sweet, seasonal fare.

Yet a tiny part of “Spirited” is aimed directly at adults. The film, according to Common Sense Media, offers: 

wide assortment of saucy language and inventive insults, including “s–t,” “diddling,” “d–king,” “dingus,” and “pr–k”) — a 19th century putdown even gets its own hilarious song and dance number.

The inclusion of saucier language still makes little sense. Neither does a supporting character, played by Sunita Mani, whose hormonal urges are milked for cheap chuckles.

And some are starting to notice it.

No one wants to force Apple TV+ to clean up “Spirited.” Artistic freedom remains an integral part of the American ideal, even if too many Hollywood dwellers refuse to defend it.

If “Spirited” removed the adult language the story would remain identical. The film already offers a fair number of chuckles, so losing a couple wouldn’t impact its entertainment value.

Who thought the occasional curse would benefit the film? Wasn’t there anyone in the production willing to suggest a cleaner script would be more appropriate – and generate repeat views?

Hollywood today is increasingly out of touch with the general public. It’s one of many reasons why this year’s Oscar-bait films are dying at the box office.

“Spirited’s” profane asides are another example of that disconnect.

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