Is ‘The Greatest Showman’ a spectacular circus-flick or a show-off shamble?
P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is an aspiring entrepreneur, yet stuck in his mundane job as a clerk. Fuelled by his dreams from his youth with his wife, Charity (Michelle Barnum), he sets up a museum of curiosities — which soon evolves into the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.
I watched the trailer to this film many times (not by choice, but because it was broadcast before every film I’ve watched in the last couple of months) and every time I did I thought the same thing: “hang on, wasn’t P.T. Barnum a money-grabbing opportunistic fraud rather than a humanitarian who believed in freedom and equality for all?” With the trailer seeming to portray him as the latter, I wasn’t entirely confident going into the cinema. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the film did express that Barnum was a fraud and after money, though still in a way that made the character likeable and Hugh Jackman’s excellent performance added to this effect.
The effects in this film were superb, especially the cosmetics that were used to transform some of the actors in this film into their characters. All the actors’ performances were very good and convincing — as was their singing (if, indeed, it was the actors singing!). I didn’t realise going in that this film is a bit of a musical extravaganza full of upbeat and catchy songs all about feeling good about yourself and that it’s okay to be different — the whole moral of the film. These pieces are all excellently choreographed and really a joy to watch.
I think the easiest comparison to make with this film is ‘La La Land‘, from earlier this year, which is also a bit of a musical extravaganza. The downfall of ‘The Greatest Showman’ in comparison to ‘La La Land’ is definitely its plot — whereas ‘La La Land”s plot is upbeat, yet still emotional and powerful, ‘The Greatest Showman’ is riddled with clichés and is quite basic in its story. Take, for instance, the sub-plot of the love between Zac Efron’s character, a young man from the upper-class still stuck with his stereotypes handed down from his parents, and Zendaya’s character, an outcast trapezist who joins Barnum’s show. They share less than twenty words in one scene, then in the next they’re falling in love — a typical ‘person learns to overcome their stereotypes and preconceptions for love’ story-arc. Perhaps I’m just looking to deep into this – besides, you’re probably not going to go to see ‘The Greatest Showman’ for a groundbreaking plot!
With this in mind, I think that ‘The Greatest Showman’ deserves seven-out-of-ten for its excellent dance routines and visual effects, as well as strong performances from the entire cast.
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