The Greatest Showman (2017)

greatest showman poster 2017 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Catchy song and good visuals

Very undeveloped story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Greatest Showman

Studio:  Laurence Mark Productions

Genre(s):  Musical

Release Date(s):  December 8, 2017 (Premiere)/December 20, 2017 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG

greatest showman opening number cast hugh jackman

Is this the greatest show?

Phineas Taylor Barnum (Hugh Jackman) has dreams that are bigger than his lot in life.  Born a tailor’s son, Barnum seeks to improve his standings in society when he weds Charity Hallett (Michelle Williams) and promises her that they will have riches and happiness.  Barnum finds the workplace a challenge and feels himself caught up in the rat-race with no opportunity for success.  Taking a big risk, Barnum is about to change the world with a show that cannot be matched…but fame and fortune can have a price!

Directed by Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman is a musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum.  The film was released to mixed reviews but was a massive box office success.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (“This Is Me”).

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its run on May 21, 2017 and with it closed a piece of Americana.  The circus was universal and accessible to people who could not afford a stage play or other classical entertainment…this is the strength of Barnum, but The Greatest Showman seems a bit directionless at times in that sense.

greatest showman this is me bearded lady

I will sing about my exploitation!!!

The story is almost non-existent in the film.  The movie is largely fictionalized with only few aspects of Barnum’s life being true as told.  Barnum starts a display, the display burns down, and Barnum starts a circus…that is pretty much all that happens.  There is a near affair with Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a romance between Phillip Carlyle and Anne Wheeler (who were created for the film though Efron slightly resembles Bailey), and the idea that the “oddities” Barnum has brought together have formed a family.  All of it feels really superficial and underdeveloped.  It feels like there is a good story in Barnum’s tale, but this isn’t it.

The cast is good.  Hugh Jackman rules the screen as the song and dance-man of today, but the idea that he and Michelle Williams are supposed to be the same age is pretty laughable.  Zac Efron and Zendaya are likeable as star-crossed lover, and Keala Settle is a stand-out as the bearded lady.

greatest showman zac efron zendaya

I’m kind of Bailey…and you’re pretty much fiction!

Visually the movie does stand out.  The editing and spectacle of the movie is extreme.  The circus was something that people never had seen and probably would wow them like the spectators in the movie…so to bring it to modern audiences, it needed to be extreme.  It does feel like Baz Luhrmann light, however.

The Greatest Showman picks the right subject but gives the wrong movie.  The idea of exploitation by Barnum is kind of glossed over and unresolved in the movie, but the spectacle does reign.  P.T. Barnum’s effect on society and what he showed them for the first time feels like the bigger story especially today when everyone seeks fame…even if it is infamy.  The Greatest Showman features a catchy lead number but largely leaves you empty.

Related Links:

The 90th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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