Movie #166 2020: The Greatest Showman (2017)

Do you ever have those movies that are insanely popular at the time but you just have no desire to see them whatsoever? That’s The Greatest Showman for me.

Although I’ve never really been adverse to seeing it, it’s one of those movies that just didn’t draw me in, and as a result was one that was put on the back-burner. Yeah, yeah, I know the back-burner was technically a three year long one, but I got there eventually and actually enjoyed it more than I anticipated!

I’m not entirely sure how many people have heard of P.T. Barnum in this day and age, but I happened to already know the basics of his story due to participating in a performance of one of the musical numbers from his eponymous musical, Barnum. With The Greatest Showman, we get a far more fictionalised version of Barnum’s life, but it’s a fun story nevertheless.

We begin with Barnum wanting something bigger for his wife and his daughters, so he embarks on investing in a circus of sorts, and recruits a bunch of misfits to star in it with him, from bearded ladies to trapeze artists to little people. Once the circus starts to become a roaring success, Barnum (Hugh Jackman) loses his way morally and things start to take a downturn.

First off, I love it when racism is fixed because a white man sings a song about it!!! The Zac Efron and Zendaya subplot, whilst performed well by both, reduced the enormous issue of race and interracial relationships down to a little song and dance, which, understandably, I wasn’t a fan of. If you don’t read too much into that, it’s a cute story, but it is kind of problematic in a couple of ways and I’m surprised no one’s really mentioned that in other reviews of this movie.

There are other performances that stand out, most notably of course from Jackman. He’s just great at everything, and this happens to be a kind of mish-mash of his roles in Chris Nolan‘s The Prestige and as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, which is not a bad thing. For me though, Keala Settle stole the entire show as the Bearded Lady – what a presence.

Rebecca Ferguson also stars, and whilst she is very talented, I couldn’t help but think Cassidy Janson should have been cast in that role. Ferguson does not sing (despite her character being a famous opera singer with one of the grandest songs ”Never Enough” in the film), and is dubbed by a former The Voice US contestant, but Janson absolutely does sing, and they kind of look similar too, so they wouldn’t be compromising too much on any aesthetics. What I’m saying is, I know they were punting for a bigger name in that role, but Janson would have been such a perfect Jenny Lind, and I’d love to see her in the stage version of this at some point in the future.

The plot is your average feel-good musical story: no twists that you didn’t see coming, nothing really out of the ordinary, but well paced and heartwarming enough. Of course one of the most important components to Showman come with its music, and the ensemble songs are particular stand outs, as you’d expect. (P!nk and Kelly Clarkson, are just two of the big names who have released their versions of said songs in real life). The choreography is well done too, and although the ensemble pieces are very simple difficulty-wise, they do as they intend and create entertaining visual spectacle.

My final feeling surrounding this movie was that it was fine. I had a good time watching it, but I won’t be thinking about it come tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll make a great stage show though, as the musical numbers really are the glue that holds the movie together.

I debated for a while over whether to give The Greatest Showman a 3 or 4 Q rating for enjoyablity, but in the end I just had to go for a 4. Come on, who doesn’t need joy right now?

The Greatest Showman inexplicably got removed for free streaming on Sky Cinema, but you can rent it for £3.49 on Amazon.

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