Movie Review: The Greatest Showman
With a colorful slew of special effects, themes of prejudice and overcoming hardship, an all-star cast, and an award-winning soundtrack, The Greatest Showman promises its audiences a world of spectacular entertainment. But does it deliver?
The Greatest Showman follows the story of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the famous founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. It should be noted that the movie is so loosely based on history that it almost makes one wonder why the producers felt the need to tie it into the story of Barnum at all. While historical Barnum was a greedy businessman famous for his hoaxes, Hugh Jackman brings Barnum to life as a rags to riches hero captivated by the beautiful and the strange. Historical accuracy aside, Jackman’s performance as Barnum was excellent, especially alongside co-stars such as Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya.
Box office results for the first week of the film were modest considering the enormous advertising campaign for the film. What’s interesting is that, instead of dwindling off into another failed high budget movie (one can’t help but flash back to Lone Ranger), The Greatest Showman has maintained a steady audience since its release and has already grossed over $250 million worldwide. So what is it about this movie that has audiences continuing to stream in?
The greatest strength of the movie is, without a doubt, its soundtrack. This Is Me won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture, and was nominated for the Academy Awards and Critics’ Choice Awards. While This Is Me may be the crowning jewel of the soundtrack, that’s not to say that the other songs are any less spectacular. Never Enough, The Greatest Show, and The Other Side are just a few other songs that contribute to the phenomenal music. The soundtrack is incredible not only because of its exceptional quality, but also its variety. It includes upbeat, fast-paced songs, romantic duets, and heartbreaking solos, making it appealing to many different tastes.
The Greatest Showman is also visually stunning. With colorful costumes, enchanting settings, and incredible musical numbers. Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams have a breathtaking rooftop dance to their song A Million Dreams, Zac Efron and Zendaya perform beautiful acrobatics in Rewrite the Stars, and the entire cast truly gives their all in numbers such as Come Alive and From Now On. Bright and beautiful costumes decorate just about every moment. The film also takes advantage of unique and fun settings like railroads, abandoned houses, and bars to enhance the already phenomenal choreography. The special effects are fantastic, and the film becomes even more impressive knowing that many of the actors performed their own stunts.
The weak point of the move is, unfortunately, its plot. In this aspect, The Greatest Showman tries to do a little bit too much, resulting in a storyline that feels decentralized and characters that seem slightly underdeveloped. The movie chases after a number of subplots that, while engaging, become diluted due to an inefficient amount of time being devoted to them. As a result, it’s difficult to become too emotionally attached to any one character or story. This isn’t to say that the movie as a whole isn’t entertaining or emotionally moving, but it hurts to see unrealized potential in any film, especially one that is so spectacular in so many other ways.
While the story may lack centralization, it certainly doesn’t lack heart. The Greatest Showman touches on themes such as racism, overcoming prejudice against diversity, self-respect and self-love, and lastly, the pursuit of dreams against a world of adversity. The variety of unique characters are lovable and easy to sympathise with, which is perhaps why their song This Is Me, which drives home the theme of fighting for diversity, is so successful.
Any film telling the story of a famous showman is going to be met with high expectations. The visuals and acting have to be truly spectacular in order for the film to be successful. Luckily, The Greatest Showman gives its all on both these fronts, resulting in a movie that is not only moving but also beautiful and guaranteed to have you listening to the soundtrack days after you’ve seen the film. Lighthearted, fun, and stunning, it truly is an incredible show.
Originally Published February 11, 2018