The Greatest Showman is a classic musical in the best sense – an exuberant celebration of ingenuity and spectacle. The songs are beautiful, and it is refreshing to see a cast full of accomplished singers voice them. If his performance is any indication, this might be the most fun Hugh Jackman has ever had on a movie set. A great film for all ages to enjoy this holiday season.
The film follows P.T. Barnum from childhood through the rise and fall of his self-titled “Greatest Show on Earth.” Heavy liberties are taken to make life fit into plot line suited to a musical. Along the way, there is a devoted wife with disapproving parents, adorable children, unusual performers, and temptations of the diva type. This is, of course, the kind of movie with a happy ending.
Be forewarned, the songs themselves are beautiful, but they are definitely earworms. You will be humming them for at least a week after seeing this movie. You might be humming them for several more if you hunt down the soundtrack on your favorite site for buying or streaming music (not that I or my long-suffering partner would know). The music is decidedly anachronistic, but this is unsurprising given that the songs of the era would sound odd to most modern ears. Overall, John Debney, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Joseph Trapanese do a lovely job integrating the songs and score into the story and the anachronism is mostly unnoticeable except when a singer hyped as a opera diva breaks into a 21st century pop song.
Admit it, you want more Moulin Rouge!
The casting directors put together a group of people without sacrificing singing ability on the altar of acting ability, as so many recently musical films have done. Hugh Jackman is the heart and soul of the film, but the entire cast acquits themselves well. Zac Efron in particular seems to enjoy reminding us that he started his career on his singing, acting, and dancing skills, and he hasn’t let them get rusty. Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Lettie Lutz, and Sam Humphrey round out the main cast and all do an impressive job. Child actors Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, and Ellis Rubin are also fun to watch.
This film also has multiple exquisite dance numbers. From a romantic duet incorporating the circus’ fly system to a stomping group number through a wood paneled bar, director Michael Gracey uses every part of his cast and set in the dance numbers.
The weak spot in this otherwise great movie is there is not enough screen time devoted to the circus itself. There are almost as many performances of Barnum’s daughter’s ballet recitals as there are of the actual circus. While Barnum (in particular Jackman as Barnum) is entertaining to watch, The Greatest Showmandoes itself a disservice by not using the circus part of its cast to their fullest potential. Also, the character assassination of Swedish songbird Jenny Lind feels sexist, is unnecessary to the plot, and could have been avoided with better writing. It is especially odd in a move that goes to lengths to gloss over the less “spotlight friendly” elements of Barnum’s story.
Still, leaving your audience wanting more of your characters is not the worst problem to have, and overall The Greatest Showman is a delight to watch. And when the driver next to you at the stoplight catches you belting “Never Enough” on the way home, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
ComicsOnline gives The Greatest Showman 4 out of 5 gilded hoaxes.
(Managing Editor/Director of Media Relations)
Matt interviewed MacGyver once (true story), and was invited on a submarine to the Arctic. It hasn't happened yet, but Matt hopes that some day he will get the call and he and Richard Dean Anderson will go off and have a wacky adventure.