The Greatest Showman Review
The film is inspired by the story of P. T. Barnum (Jackman)'s creation of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. It has some great musical numbers that honestly make this film more tolerable than it should be. It allows this basic story to come off the screen with pizzazz. This film is about a man who was always told he would be nothing and he changes that but it pushes him apart from those who matter to him most, his wife (Williams) and his family.
This being Gracey’s first directional film, it is fairly decent to choreograph and film the musical numbers. They look fantastic, bombastic, and very well staged. The songs were written and composed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who did La La Land and their songs are what drive the film. This film is actually a better musical than La La Land was. Here, the songs aren't simply there for entertainment value. They have a purpose and are part of the story as many characters express themselves in song. This is why La La Land was not a musical and The Greatest Showman is. This film is able to keep the audience hooked and even singing along at time through its music. Gracey able to bring this original musical to life but really what brings this film to life is the star himself, Jackman.
Jackman, who apparently tried to get this film made for the better part of a decade, shows his love for musicals in this film. This is probably what got the film made and honestly what pushed a lot of people to see this film. Frankly, that is not a bad reason to go see it. The film is about him trying to make a name for himself and the audience sees Jackman’s passion in his smile and twinkling eyes. Barnum works hard and brings together the “curiosities” to show that they are still human. The film shows this man that thinks he is doing more good than bad. Jackman is fantastic and honestly, he should continue to push musicals to be made into films. The rest of the cast is decent with standouts of Efron and Zendaya. Their duet is great and their singing flows well together, however, their relationship, though great given the time period, is part of the film’s biggest flaws.
This film is based on Barnum but frankly, it’s a fabrication. It is a film that takes a real-life person and makes him seem better than he was. This film portrays him as a hero that is behind the people who the rest of society looks at as “curiosities” however that he was a person who was not about that at all. He was more about the money than trying to help those left behind. One of the people he trod around was Joice Heth. She was an elderly slave who he purchased and told that she was 160 years old that used to work for George Washington. Then when she died, he sold tickets to her autopsy so to show her “actual” age. In addition, the characters of Efron and Zendaya did not exist. Carlyle is a mix of people and Zendaya is a complete falsehood so their “revolutionary” relationship lacks. Speaking of relationships, there was none between Jenny Lind (Ferguson) and Barnum. In fact, the reason for their real-life separation was due to Lind not caring for Barnum’s promotion not because he was not in love with her when she was with him. In addition, her “singing” was not even her. It was Loren Allred and while there are many situations where someone who dubs another actor’s singing, this one makes very little sense. Not to say Ferguson was bad in this role but her character could have been anyone playing it. Why not just have the actual singer there instead of her?
Furthermore, this film has very little character development aside from Barnum but even his seemed lacking because of the somewhat short runtime. Most musicals are over a two-hour runtime which allows the film to flesh out its characters. This film markets it's “This is Me” anthem and while that song is powerful and has a good message, it has little impact on the film itself. At the end of the day, the bearded lady is still nothing but the bearded lady, the dog-faced boy is just a dog-faced boy, and the tattooed man I still a tattooed man. This makes the overall film seem pointless as nothing really happens aside from Barnum’s rags to riches story at the expense of the those looked down upon. While it could be argued that this is what he did actually, this film tries to be an uplifting one not only of Barnum but everyone around him as well.
At the end of the day, this film is honest and a lot of fun. The songs are great and its musical production is fantastic. It is decent family-oriented film and the cast members all sing fairly well with the obvious standout being Jackman. However, the flaws that exist prevent this film from being a musical from being an iconic one. It could improve by perhaps making it a tad longer and not marketing it as a true story when it isn’t really one. There has been an obvious decline in this genre of film and that is tragic. Hollywood needs Jackman’s passion to push more musical films to be made. If the film had a better story, it could have been great and this hopefully will push for more original musicals to be made. This one will make audience members smile even with its simple and false story. Jackman makes this film a lot of fun and his passion may be worth the price of admission to a theatre outing with the family. Barnum has been accused of being deceptive and promoting false advertising and honestly, this good film is not that far from that as well.
Rating: 3.5/5.0 bowties
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