Starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Ephron, The Greatest Showman tells the tale of how controversial showman Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum launched his world famous circus in the early 1870’s; a circus that would run for 146 years, closing in 2017 due to animal cruelty concerns (largely related to the treatment of the elephants) and long-term decreased ticket sales.
Every year for many years as a child, my dad and mom would take my brother and me to the circus. We were the youngest of 7 and the older kids had outgrown interest in the whole affair. Most notably, although I loved them, I recall the smell of those stinky animals blocks before even arriving at Madison Square Garden, and how that smell intensified on the escalator. But we always had a great time. Now, my daddy was a man who loathed sitting at events. He was a tall, big, broad man and the only seat he found comfortable for long periods was in his car. If he came to a school play he would stand in the back by the door. I mean , he didn’t even attend graduations, but he’d be right outside after we left the venue, in his car, ready to go celebrate. We never discussed it. It was just how he was, and I didn’t realize until just now, but he must have loved the circus quite deeply.
That being said, The Greatest Showman did for me what I wanted La La Land to do, but unfortunately did not. (Here’s my review and rereading it now, I stand by it still.) Even though the earliest version of the circus which featured human oddities, no animals and no clowns is the focus, it managed to transport me back in time to those days with my dad marveling at the pageantry of the circus. I may have gone for six years straight before it was enough, but each time it was exciting to see what was new.
The Greatest Showman delivers on fun, well written songs, cool choreography, an interesting story along with interesting sub-stories containing heroes and villains. It hits highs and lows and goes lower and soars again. It is heartwarming and inspirational. It is a story of acceptance and love. It is about perseverance, resourcefulness and humility as it relates to dreaming big and having great vision. It is about believing in yourself and your dreams when practically no one else does and making your dreams come true. It manages to do and be all these things without becoming a mess.
Jenny Bicks does a fine job at writing and screenwriting her first feature film. Even though we know how the story ends, the script contains enough suspense and nuance to hold the interest of the audience. The story was neither predictable, nor cliché. Broadway songwriters Ben Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, City of Stars from La La Land) provide lovely songs to balance with the dialogue. If you are a fan of musical theater, I predict you will appreciate The Greatest Showman.
What strikes me as most exciting about this movie is the camera work and editing. It is beautifully edited with shots running into each other as scenes change in delightful ways. The editing crew took great care and did an outstanding job. The cinematography, scenery, set design, costumes, are all noteworthy and beautiful as well.
Hugh Jackman. I don’t think I need say anything else. He’s just… why, he’s Hugh Jackman. That’s all. He’s great. He pulls you in as he sings and dances and he is fast becoming one of my favorites. The supporting cast does an excellent job at being endearing, and the ones who are less endearing pull off being unlikable quite well. Keala Settle as the bearded woman will melt your heart. Small spoiler alert ahead – (continue reading at your own risk or just skip to the next paragraph and come back after you’ve seen it) – And while she doesn’t appear in the movie, Loren Allred (from the Voice) sings a song that is so incredibly beautiful in such a nuanced way it will move you. I am predicting another original song award for Pasek & Paul.
The Greatest Showman earned 9 out of 10 bloops. It’s mostly, nice, clean, family fun. It will provide a great lesson in acceptance and anti-bullying for children, although, I must say, it might be a bit much for children under say, 8 or so, depending on your child, of course. They will have plenty of comments and questions about the circus people for certain. (I would recommend seeing it first without the kids to see if you believe they can handle it.) It is an excellent, must see movie. Enjoy!
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m reviewing next…
What I’m absolutely seeing this week
The Disaster Artist
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro