Truly a spectacle to behold, the Hugh Jackman-led film provides triumphant feats in the form of the spectacular musical numbers, but sacrifices other aspects as a result.
Passion can make any film rise up and capture an audience. This film has that in spades. The ambitious task of creating an original musical based on the exploits of P.T. Barnum required nothing less to be successful. The seven years of development did little to detract those involved from being whole heartedly committed to the project. It is that passion that makes The Greatest Showman a must-see in theaters, while also causing some drawbacks as well.
The Greatest Showman tells the story of P.T. Barnum and his rise to fame. The tailor’s son was born into poverty, but dreamed of something bigger. His dreams would carry him into adulthood, where he would start a family with his childhood sweetheart, but he still strived for more. He would eventually create a show which included “oddities” such as “The Bearded Lady” and “The World’s Fattest Man” for the entertainment of the masses. His ambitions would eventually lead to conflict, as Barnum would create the famous Jenny Lind tour and conflict would arise in the relationships he built and with his own moral compass.
The director of this film (Michael Gracey) seems to have allowed the subject matter of the film influence the way which the film is structured. The first scene starts with a shadowed Hugh Jackman singing the introduction of the show you are about to see, as the crowd chants together as if they were at a Queen concert. After our ringmaster has introduced the show and the performers give us a taste of what is to come, the film weaves together a story of struggle, persecution, and ultimately triumph as each “act” astounds and delights the audience. Finally, we are capped off with an over-the-top finale which sends the audience home happy that they saw the circus come to town (minus the shady practices of the real-life P.T. Barnum and his circus).
The “acts” of this circus are the musical numbers, which are filmed and performed delightfully by everyone involved. Though “This Is Me” (performed by Keala Settle) is essentially the anthem to the film as a whole, the true highlights of the film are the beautifully performed “Never Enough” (which is lip synced by Rebecca Ferguson over Loren Allred) and the magnificently choreographed “Rewrite the Stars” (performed by Zac Efron and Zendaya). It is in these and other excellent songs that the $84 million budget is used most liberally, contributing to the spectacle that the film is meant to be.
The issues come with the heavy reliance on these musical numbers. While the plot is well threaded together, certain points of the film seem to focus more on setting up the next big musical number rather than effectively developing the story. The overarching story is fine, but you can’t help but feel that parts of the story are missing whether due to reshoots or simply in an effort to gloss over the rougher edges of the true story.
Nevertheless, the cast (which also includes Michelle Williams) gives off an energy that is infectious and carries the film from ever reaching a lull. Hugh Jakman is particularly excellent, as his portrayal of a dreamer who simply doesn’t know how to say enough is truly engaging and will help the actor further grow in recognition after an exceptional last performance as Wolverine in Logan earlier in the year.
Overall, The Greatest Showman is an absolute joy to watch, with Hugh Jackman putting on a fantastic show for audiences of all ages to enjoy.