THE GREATEST SHOWMAN Review
Hugh Jackman is the Übermensch. He can act, is a genuinely nice human being and family man. Oh, and he can dance and sing, not sure if you know that. He makes it his mission to assure people that he isn’t just the feral Wolverine and has a softer side. Jackman is also one of the greatest entertainers; charismatic, multi-talented and loved by all. So, it’s a no brainer that he should have a passion to star as the world’s first entertainer; P.T. Barnum, the creator of the circus.
‘The Greatest Showman’ follows Barnum (Jackman) as he creates the circus with a roster of unique and curious individuals. What follows is a passion project that is a glossy, entertaining, family-friendly retelling of the story of P.T. Barnum. Try to avoid reading about the true P.T. Barnum story so as not to ruin the magic on screen.
This film is Jackman’s film through and through. He has attempted to develop this film for over 7 years and the result is his ego interferes and P.T. Barnum becomes the centre of the universe; every character and moment and action revolves around him. That results in character development sacrificed for Barnum/Jackman’s own story. However, Jackman is (as always) entertaining that it can be ignored. The rest of the cast of adequate, given the lack-lustre material. Zac Efron and Zendaya have great chemistry and Keala Settle as ‘The Bearded Lady’ is the poster-woman for the films message of acceptance and also, the circus’ ‘oddities’.
As the film is a Musical, the musical numbers are what make or break it. From the pair behind ‘La La Land’, the standards are high. Yet somehow, they meet it. The music is more ‘poppy’ than ‘La La Land’ or the films time period, but is instantly catchy and enjoyable and uplifting that they can be ignored. The dancing is also impressively choreographed, with the match-made-in-heaven dance-off between Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron in a bar over shots a highlight.
The biggest criticism of this film will be its lack of accuracy to the real-life P.T. Barnum. This, like all films, are inherently fiction. Narrative leniencies can be given, particularly if the film achieves its job; to entertain. The film address this in a meta-storyline between Barnum and his harshest critic, with Barnum questioning the critic who can’t accept entertainment for what it is. The film opens with a dreamlike number of Barnum surrounded by the classic circus iconography, before remembering to his journey to that moment. The implication being that the film is Barnum’s own imagination of the events of his life; with all the whimsical elements he can imagine including a caricature Queen Victoria; an opera singer who doesn’t sing opera; and riding elephant down the winter 19th century New York streets. This is a theatre musical on the big screen; with emotive performances and theatrical settings (the gravitational effects of this world’s moon must be catastrophic). The style of the film is reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s musical; just more palatable and less nauseating.
‘The Greatest Showman’ is an accurate depiction of Barnum’s intention. It is a family-friendly musical piece of entertainment that embraces its theatrical elements and excels at being a piece of pure entertainment.