Directed by: Michael Gracey
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Keala Settle
I finally got around to seeing The Greatest Showman, the musical biopic loosely based on Phineas Taylor Barnum (better known as P. T. Barnum) and the origin of the “Greatest Show on Earth.” I’d heard a tremendous amount of praise for the film and considering it released in theaters in December and I was still able to see it in early March is saying something.
This is definitely a feel good movie that you can watch with the entire family. Hugh Jackman continues to show his versatility as an actor; whether he’s growling and shredding through bad guys as Wolverine or singing and dancing here, there’s no question he’s a talented guy. Zac Efron is back at home from his High School Musical days and Zendaya is absolutely stunning. Honestly, the entire cast is solid.
The music is also fantastic and complimented with entertaining choreography. Some of the dancing is a little too modern for the time period, but it’s clear that there’s more emphasis on entertainment than historical accuracy (more on that in a bit). The movie shines visually as well; a bright and colorful treat for the eyes. Even the back alleys and rooftops are interesting to look at.
The only down side is that some of the CGI work is extremely noticeable, and does ruin the illusion of reality for a few scenes. It’s no secret that a movie like this can’t be filmed solely with practical effects, but a couple of scenes you can’t help but focus on the CGI and it becomes a minor distraction.
The Greatest Showman’s story is running over with positivity including themes such as “follow your dreams not the status quo” and “be happy with who you are.” These are all fantastic messages, and could have been a little too sanctimonious if it wasn’t for the well-rounded arcs of both Zac Efron and Jackman’s flawed characters. You see them make mistakes and then learn from them; providing a nice balance to the overall tone.
It is important to note that while the movie itself presents Barnum as a champion of tolerance and equality, it’s far from historically accurate. After a little research, the truth is that Barnum didn’t start his circus until he was in his 60’s, and there appears to be a mountain of evidence that suggests he was more interested in exploiting people for profit.
It’s ironic (and fitting) that the movie about a man who sold falsehoods to the public for entertainment and profit should do exactly the same. None of this matters in order to enjoy the movie; you should just enjoy it for what it is and not accept it as historical fact. As Barnum says at one point in the movie: the truth is irrelevant, as long as people were entertained and felt they got their money’s worth.
At the end of the day, whether you enjoy this movie or not will depend largely on what you’re looking for. As far as being a true to history biopic about P. T. Barnum’s life and career, it fails on several levels. However, if you’re looking for an entertaining musical with a positive message that you can watch with your family, then you will be hard pressed to find one that soars higher than The Greatest Showman.
Cinematic Quality: 8 out of 10
- Music and choreography, while sometimes a bit modern, is fantastic.
- Some of the CGI is a bit too noticeable.
- well-rounded character arcs
Fun Factor: 9 out of 10
- Tons of good family fun to be had by all.
Worth the price of admission: 7 out of 10
- The visuals, music and choreography are best viewed on the big screen, but will offer the same amount of fun on home video.
Re-watch Value: 10 out of 10
- If musicals are your thing, this is sure to become a classic.