Movie Review: 20th Century Fox's The #GreatestShowman

Director: Michael Gracey
Story by: Jenny Bicks
Screenplay by: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon
Producers: Laurence Mark, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya
Official Channels: Site | Facebook | @GreatestShowman
“The Greatest Showman” is a bold and original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life. Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerizing spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. “The Greatest Showman” is directed by exciting new filmmaker, Michael Gracey, with songs by Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land”) and starring Academy Award nominee Hugh Jackman. Jackman is joined by Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Zac Efron and Rebecca Ferguson.


It was only a few months ago, that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shuttered “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  It was a bittersweet event that was simulcast on YouTube, for the world to see. Just when audiences were beginning to feel circus withdrawal pains, this year’s musical spectacular, The Greatest Showman, comes along with all of the memories and magic of real “under the big top” moments. 

The Greatest Showman is inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, founder of the what would become the Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Focus on the “inspired by” part, for greatest enjoyment.  This isn’t a true biography. The film takes creative liberty with the details of Barnum’s life, and the resulting film is better for that.

Showman is this year’s musical extravaganza with a hopeful message, like that of last year’s hit movie musical, La La Land. While the musical lyrics for La La Land and Showman are written by the same team, Showman’s music has an entirely authentic circus feel.  From the opening musical number through to the closing, the contemporary songs are upbeat and catchy.  They convey the hopeful and defiant spirit of the characters.  The music is easily Showman’s biggest scene-stealer.

That isn’t to say that the cast is overshadowed by the music.  It would take a lot to overshadow Hugh Jackman (as P.T. Barnum) who is perfect in his role and the all-star supporting cast. Zac Efron (as Phillip Carlyle), Zendaya (as Anne Wheeler) and Keala Settle (as Lettie) provide very strong musical and acting performances.  The best scene in the film is easily the Barnum / Carlyle negotiation dance number but Lettie’s voice carries many of other musical moments. Settle has a Broadway voice that inspires an audience to tears, in a good way.  The only exception to the cast was the performance of Michelle Williams (as Charity Barnum).   Williams seemed somewhat out of her league.  The weakest of the musical numbers was Williams’ solo near the end of the movie.  It weakened the ending of the film some to have Williams try a solo just then.

With the exception of Williams’ solo, there is still a ton of good in Showman.  It is quite a sight to behold.  In carrying through with the circus feel, the audience is almost overwhelmed with dramatic and beautiful visuals.  Every scene looks like a circus. The colors are rich.  The set design is very detailed and impeccable. The costuming was gorgeous.  It was especially impressive that none of the bold coloring or busy sets were over the top.  Somehow, it all worked perfectly.  It looked wonderfully mesmerizing on the big screen. 

The best aspect of Showman is it’s hopeful message.  Through its contemporary soundtrack and its spectacular dance numbers, Showman conveys the timeless themes of  “following your dreams,” “persevering over adversity” and “being kind.” Better still, because of its PG rating, Showman is a film for the whole family. No four-letter words, no risqué concepts.

Go see Showman. Then, go buy the soundtrack. Get yourself a top hat and join a circus.  Fine, that last thing is probably a bit much, but that’s how much fun the movie was.  It is perfect for the holiday season and perfect for the whole family.  See The Greatest Showman in theaters, playing everywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Hugh Jackman said this was the first original movie musical in something like 23 years. It took me a few moments to realize that Les Miserables was based on a play, others are remakes of previous movies, etc.


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