REVIEW: The Greatest Showman
Directed by Michael Gracey
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and Zendaya. Set in the mid-1800s, The Greatest Showman looks at the start of P.T. Barnum’s (Jackman) career to create one of the world’s first major circuses and bring in talents of all kinds.
Musical films these days are increasingly few and far between, with the last big one being La La Land. That is clearly what 20th Century Fox are banking on for audience acceptance with The Greatest Showman, another original musical movie from the same songwriters. What is the result?
A rushing, dragging, clichéd, generic and watered down version of every great musical, and nowhere near an interesting one on its own. Hugh Jackman is leading this whole endeavour to explore P.T. Barnum’s life and his wild circus, but Barnum is not an interesting character, the circus is completely unrealistic (even for a circus), and the other elements feel tacked on.
Barnum is dealing with the finances of running a circus, while struggling with his marriage to Michelle Williams’ character, AND at the same time Zac Efron and Zendaya’s characters are struggling in a taboo interracial relationship, the circus freak characters all have the same insecurities about identity, AND there is some rushed undercurrent of the lower-class versus the rich snobs. Boo on them!
No, wait, boo on this movie. The Greatest Showman doesn’t even have good songs for a bloody musical! Every single one feels like commercialised pop garbage that the lowest grade musicals think are exceptional. Musical songs should either be rooted in deep emotion or emphasise a grandiose spectacle, and these ones do neither so each one feels boring, over-produced, unnecessary or just straight painful.
This movie does boast a great cast, but each actor is wasted in their own way in cliché roles or underwritten pieces of nonsense that have no identity on their own. Jackman as Barnum is given the most to do, but he is always this over-joyous fool who barely learns a thing in the end. Efron and Zendaya share the movie’s strongest story, but exceptional actresses like Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Williams are completely wasted.
The Greatest Showman is directed by a first-time director and it shows completely, as the movie is poorly paced, poorly edited, poorly shot, features some cheap visuals, oddly lacklustre makeup and costumes and struggles with logic many times. There are a few moments of whimsy and wonder when everyone is singing and dancing, but that still doesn’t make sense for the scenario. This movie might have worked A LOT better on the stage, but as an actual movie, The Greatest Showman is not a show worth paying for.