The Greatest Showman (2017)

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Greatest Showman is a treat and a movie to be enjoyed by the family. The soundtrack, which I have listened to a number of times, is superb and compliments the talents of those involved with the film. The choreography, too, is well done, although it isn’t perfect. The Greatest Showman is an exciting film that easily captures your attention.

Beyond the music and choreography, the movie fails to meet expectations. Even as a musical, the story is thin and finds itself diverging throughout. While based on P.T. Barnum and the creation of his circus, it should not be regarded as a truthful retelling, as the film often takes its own artistic liberties in order to embellish and make the story better. Some of the characters, such as Zac Efron’s, simply do not exist. They were made up for the sake of the story, whatever little of it there happens to be.

The story follows P.T. Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman, and the struggle he faces to support his family and give his wife, played by Michelle Williams, the life he promised her. With no money, and having just lost his job, Barnum sets out to start a museum of curiosities, which is what eventually transforms into the circus. The museum is struggling to gain an audience until one of Barnum’s daughters says something that gives him an idea, and it pays off.

As Barnum’s show becomes more popular, his wealth magnifies and is set on finding new ways of entertaining the masses. This leads to a storyline with opera singer Jenny Lind, played by Rebecca Ferguson. Promoting Lind and joining her on a national tour, P.T. Barnum has left his wife and children at home, which leads to problems that must be addressed.

The troupe making up Barnum’s circus is a cast of characters you’d expect to be in any show, especially one for this time period. A bearded lady, played by the enigmatic Keala Settle, along with a little person, acrobats, albinos, and many others. The performances of these actors and their overall stories in the film emphasize the importance of accepting differences and the importance of community. There is a strong focus on tolerance.

One of the drawbacks of The Greatest Showman is the use of CGI. There’s a lot of it and it detracts from the quality of the film. CGI is even used on Sam Humphrey, who is portraying Tom Thumb, to make him appear smaller than he actually is. In addition to this, there are some shots where Humphrey simply disappears from the choreographed dance scenes. He might be there in one moment, gone the next, and then appearing again. It was a strange thing to witness.

Rebecca Ferguson, quite notably, does not sing in this film. While she would seem to be, her voice is actually that of Loren Allred, from The Voice. Ferguson’s lip syncing in the movie was unnecessary and the character should have been cast differently.

All in all, it’s a fun movie. It makes for a good night out and the music is great. But that is the film’s saving grace, the music. Without it, The Greatest Showman would be a total disappointment. I was certainly hoping for something better and, while Hugh Jackman does well as the lead, it is nothing like his performance in Les Misérables.

This review was crossposted with The Moderate Voice

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