The Greatest Showman

3.5 STARS

         
 

30 December 2017| No Comments on The Greatest Showman     by Sean Chavel

 

 

Intermittently engages the brain while the majority of its time hitting us up with high-spirited, almost soap opera emotions. In this individual case, that’s a compliment maybe because it is inspirational and unapologetically corny. The Greatest Showman is a Hugh Jackman showcase musical that’s a loose – if white-washed – bio on circus creator and ringmaster P.T. Barnum. He started as a huckster with a museum filled with wax dummies until he started to invite human oddities to perform tricks and music, and from there, it evolved into a circus sensation. I thought of the 1932 bizarro classic “Freaks” for a split-second, but this audience pleaser chooses to smooth things out and, well, makes things happy without a stab of irony.

So maybe its true the real Barnum dealt in human exploitation for capital gain. This movie has Barnum’s biggest fault being that he lets his ego get a little too inflated. The drama is light – he loves Michelle Williams and marries her but hates her moneybags father; then, after coming off as such a humanist, Barnum fits snugly in his tuxedo and doesn’t allow his circus talent to join a fancy cosmopolitan party. Then the man is tempted by a songbird he employs into his act, a Swedish beauty played by Rebecca Ferguson. She sings a ballad knockout called “Never Enough” which is so rapturous that I wish the film did some overly abstract dreamy imagery to match the song. Still, the scene is excellent for the jealousy that spurs between the two women in Barnum’s life.

The last significant character is played by Zac Efron whose part was built probably because if producers are going to get Efron, then they need more for him to do. I used to knock Efron, but he’s admittedly nifty in movies like this one. Following a jovial drinking duet in a barroom with Jackman (the duo have spry-macho dance moves), he joins the party as Barnum’s business partner – eventually the two of them fend off the mob of haters outside the door who think the freaks of the show are corrupting the sanctity of late 1800’s New York. The antagonistic hate though is palatable. There’s a lot less hate here than the more ugly moments that “Moulin Rouge!” had. “The Greatest Showman” has spiky drama, but all of it is subdued to be family friendly.

You check all reservations at the door with this movie and you let it touch you with its free love groove. I don’t know how you lodge a complaint against a movie such as this one, but I got an irrational one: I absolutely love the “A Million Dreams” montage and number, dreamily shot and filled with bigger-than-life lyrics that lift you up in the air, and that all comes very early and nothing later comes close to topping it. The highlight of the movie is over by the fifteen minute mark. Nonetheless, it’s so good that your mood is levitating at a nice point and my heart aglow for a long time following. There’s a bunch of other beautiful scenes such as a trapeze flying musical number that is unlike anything I’ve seen, and the cinematography plays with shafts of light brilliantly.

I feel it is a three and a half star movie because it flags at the beginning of the final third, but it has a handful of four-star moments — it’s still the best musical of the post-“La La Land” period. It never transports you to an authentic period piece New York, but what it does instead is stir up emotions inside with its flamboyance and bravado. It’s the kind of movie, too, for better or worse, makes you love Hugh Jackman and his high baritone by the end of it more than its supposed subject P.T. Barnum. What a guy, that Jackman.

106 Minutes. Rated PG.

MUSICAL / AGES 10 AND UP / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE 

Film Cousins: “Freaks” (1932); “The Mighty Barnum” (1934); “Moulin Rouge!” (2001); “Beauty and the Beast” (2017).

 

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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