Movie Reviews

The Greatest Showman – More Spectacle Than Story

Will this show live up to the hype?

Synopsis: “The Greatest Showman” is a bold and original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life. Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerizing spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. (20th Century Fox)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Michelle Williams

Writers: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon

Director: Michael Gracey

Rating:  PG (Canada/United States)

Running Time: 105mins

Trailer: 

For showtimes and more, check out The Greatest Showman on movietimes.com.

The trailers promised a spectacle and it definitely delivered in that regard but this also worked against the film as the spectacle conflicted with the storytelling. It just could never find the right balance between the two. The story itself was both overly predictable and a standard fare rags to riches story of a man named P.T. Barnum (Jackman) fueled by ambition, wanting to make a better life for his family including his wife Charity (Williams) by creating what would be known as the modern day circus.

For a story that was supposed to be about dreams and imagination, it was severely lacking in both, keeping us at arm’s length for the duration of the film. What was meant to be a celebration of individuality and wonder went nowhere as the film introduced us to a diverse cast of unusual people and then does nothing whatsoever with them, relegating them to the background while the focus was on a deified Barnum. In addition to Barnum, the story featured a forced and unnecessary romantic subplot between a young playwright who Barnum hires named Phillip Carlyle (Efron) and a trapeze artist named Anne Wheeler (Zendaya).

None of the characters were particularly developed either with the most interesting character being a bearded lady named Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle). The main problem with the film was that it simply moved way too fast, breezing through all the various subplots and making it difficult to keep up. It seemed like it was more concerned about the musical numbers rather than telling a coherent story. The story often succumb to melodrama and cheese and took way too many contrived leaps in its deification of Barnum.

The deficiencies with the story won’t matter to some as some will only be seeing this for the musical numbers and they were the best part of the film. They were all somewhat entertaining to watch, if not as distraction from the rest of the film, with great production values from the cinematography to the choreography to the musical arrangements. The problem with a lot of musicals are inorganic musical numbers, however, this film generally avoided this pitfall. While the film may not be the most memorable, the songs will surely be if not slightly more.

The acting was still decent across the board despite falling victim to the mediocre script. Jackman was likable as Barnum but the script and direction made it impossible for him not to be. His performance still overcame the cheesiness of the story and making him fun to watch. Efron was okay even though his character was unnecessary to the story. Williams also did the best with what she had, being nothing more than a cliche supportive wife character.

Overall, this was a decent musical with some decent performances and entertaining musical numbers with a story that failed to live up to the musical numbers. For the most part, it just felt like a series of music videos connected by a mediocre story. For some people it will be enough but others will be left wanting more.

Score: 7/10

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4 replies »

  1. You are right of course Keith; it is pure spectacle and light on narrative. But its also an original, vibrant, fast paced fantasy musical that raises the bar for the revival of this genre. I loved it.