‘The Greatest Showman’ Film Review

Grade: B+

Rebecca Ferguson, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Skylar Dunn, Cameron Seely, and Sam Humphrey in The Greatest Showman (2017)

‘The Greatest Showman’ may be out on Blu-Ray and DVD, but being that it is a cultural phenomenon, a review is still in order. In all seriousness though, I actually got to witness this film on the big screen just a few weeks ago, which I count myself lucky to have experienced. Though it is not the greatest musical (or movie) I have seen, it still goes out on a high note. 

‘The Greatest Showman’ is a sugar-coated, yet bombastic retelling of the life of P. T. Barnum (portrayed by Hugh Jackman) and the so-called “birth of show business.” I say “sugar-coated”, not because it is dazzling as all musicals should be; the majority of it is historically inaccurate. I am not a P. T. Barnum expert, but after seeing this movie, I ended up learning more about this “greatest showman” than I ever needed. While a con man he was, there was more going on behind the curtain (I would recommend looking up Barnum’s history for the cruel things he has done). Despite its ability to twist a legacy for modern audiences, it does not make this movie less enjoyable (unless you are either hard-up on historical facts and/or not a musical person).

The musical numbers make up for any story flaws this film has; I could listen to “Never Enough” sung by opera singer Jenny Lind (Portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson; singing voice by Loren Allred), who was actually involved with Barnum, but in La La Land (no pun intended being that the songs in ‘Greatest Showman’ were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul of Damien Chazelle’s hit musical) was written to add some spicy drama; or “The Other Side” – sung as a male duet between Barnum and rich playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) more than once. While “This is Me” definitely had some love during awards season for its powerful message of empowerment, sung by Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle), the bearded lady, and many other misfits and outcasts who were a part of Barnum’s circus acts, with most calling it a “freak show.” The music is truly unforgettable. 

I was amazed with this musical. My only problems are not just from the historical inaccuracies the film presented, but with the unevenness of its story. Most people will look past it, and enjoy the movie for what it is, but for me, some musical numbers felt out-of-place. Upon second viewing, this flaw is easy to ignore. Another flaw comes from the rushed romance between Carlyle and acrobat Anne Wheeler (Zendaya); like the love triangle between Barnum, his wife Charity (Michelle Williams) and Lind, this subplot was written to add some spice and give the audience a feeling that only musicals could give. I say that ‘The Greatest Showman’ could be devoid of any romance and still wow an audience. The visuals are stunning, and the music is toe-tapping. What more could be said?


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