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Spirited versus Violent Night: Two very different takes on the Christmas spirit

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell tap-dance and sing in Spirited. If you like a Santa who shoots the bad guys ... definitely Violent Night.

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell tap-dance and sing in Spirited. If you like a Santa who shoots the bad guys ... definitely Violent Night. Photo: Twitter

In need of some inspiration for Christmas family entertainment to get everyone in the mood for the festive season?

With a total of 555 Christmas movies available to watch on 10 Australian streaming services – plus a handful in cinemas – there are two films generating serious buzz for very different reasons.

Introducing Spirited (Apple TV+) and Violent Night (in mainstream cinemas).

Spirited is an earnest tap-dancing musical starring Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds, who partners up with Will Ferrell – not as an elf this year but as well-intentioned Ghost of Christmas.

It’s a take on Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella A Christmas Carol, but feels more High School Musical meets Tim Allen’s Santa Clause franchise meets Singing in the Rain.

Sounds … a bit too cheesy and Christmassy?

OK. The other is an MA15+ rated gory, hilarious, realistic spin on Santa by none other than Stranger Things‘ David Harbour, which will definitely get you sitting up and paying close attention.

Some say he’s the best Santa – ever! Others said forget It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Violent Night is “the greatest Christmas movie of all time”.

One fan wrote: “10/10 would sit in Santa’s lap … Honestly though, this movie had no right being as funny as it is, it’s like if Die Hard did cocaine and had a goofy baby with Home Alone … and I loved it”.

So much so one group of cinephiles created an hour-long podcast debating the two movie delights, unpacking the storyline and messaging.

Their scorecards are in, delivering ratings in the 80 per cent range.

A win for both.

David Harbour, Santa sceptic

In a recent Variety interview, Harbour, who plays Hawkins’ police chief Jim Hopper in the horror-drama series Stranger Things said he had doubts about playing the world’s most beloved father of all children.

“My initial thoughts were like, ‘What the hell is this? I don’t know what you guys are talking about,’” he said.

“It was pitched to me as an action-comedy Christmas movie with Santa Claus at the centre – who had a very different past and 10,000 years ago was a very different man – and that he has acquired a certain set of skills that he must use to fight bad guys in the future.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is … I don’t know about this.'”

“There was something so special about the attempt that I thought, ‘Wow, if we can hit the right sweet spot with this, it’d be quite a leap — it’d be quite an achievement’.”

Violent Night takes place on Christmas Eve, when a group of mercenaries breaks into the home of a wealthy family, demanding a $US300 million ransom.

As they’re all held hostage, Harbour – who is world-weary and been on the booze, comes down the chimney and confronts machine gun fire.

He befriends the kid in the house, who was given a walkie-talkie for Christmas, and together they beat the bad guys.

“It felt like you have an action movie, but in the middle of it you obviously have a comedy, but in the real true centre of it, you have a Christmas movie, like the best Hallmark Christmas movie or, in my mind, the top-shelf, which is Miracle on 34th Street, which is just like, ‘Is he real? Is Santa real?’” Harbour tells Collider.

‘Good afternoon’

Spirited will hook you if you are prepared to appreciate the singing and dancing duo of Reynolds and Ferrell.

They’re out of their comfort zone, and they know it, but the theme of being able to redeem an irredeemable character is heartwarming.

The official synopsis reads: “Each Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Present selects one dark soul to be reformed by a visit from three spirits. But this season, he picked the wrong Scrooge”.

Clint Briggs (Reynolds) turns the tables on his ghostly host until Present finds himself re-examining his own past, present and future.

“For the first time, A Christmas Carol is told from the perspective of the ghosts.”

The show-stopping scene is definitely Good Afternoon.

Performed by the pair as they travel back to the early 1800s in London, where Ferrell’s character (the Ghost of Christmas) tells Ryan (a heartless money-making executive whose been tapped to be redeemable), the phrase “good afternoon” was an insult.

The audience are led to believe it probably includes the F-word.

Can’t get enough Christmas?

If neither movie suits your Christmas spirit, finder.com.au compiled a list of the streaming services with the most Christmas titles this week.

Foxtel has the most Christmas flicks on offer, followed by Stan with 146 and Binge with 144.

Netflix not only licenses movies from other studios, so has The Polar Express, but original films including The Christmas Chronicles and Falling for Christmas (Lindsay Lohan).

Topics: Christmas
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