I had a chance to see this movie early and for free (so this was written in late November and scheduled to publish later – that is why the numbering is off), but I was still a little hesitant. The first trailer was very one note and did nothing to entice my wife who loves musicals and the circus or myself. We decided to still go and see it … because she loves musicals and the circus while I love Hugh Jackman. Before we could even get to the early screening, the second trailer was released. It was a much better trailer with some plot points and additional tracks, so that got us excited. So, was The Greatest Showman the best showman yet?
I would give it 7 “circus humbugs” out of 10.
FOR THE UNINITIATED
P.T. Barnum decides to bring the exotic and unique to New York after being fired from his normal job. With the help of his wife and children, he realizes they need to incorporate unique people and attractions instead of was figures. Soon he can give everything to his family, but continues to want more putting everything in jeopardy.
Directed By: Michael Gracey
Written By: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, and Paul Sparks
The music, singing, acting, and set pieces were all great … but the choreography was phenomenal. The intro sets the bar using cane taps and foot stomps for the percussion while PT Barnum sings and struts in the shadows just barely keeping his face out of the light until everything hits full swing. The standout scene is definitely when Barnum is trying to convince Carlyle to join the circus. The choreography was likely a nightmare trying to pass shot glasses around a narrow bar and pour out the liquor without dropping a glass or spilling a drop. The end result was phenomenal though and worth all of the hours it took for everyone to get a perfect shot or take.
The biggest issue I had was the pacing. The Greatest Showman was only 1 hour and 45 minutes, but it seemed to drag on for much longer. The scenes that were great flew by with a lot of action or a fantastic song, but there were several that dropped the tempo and would be sandwiched by little plot. Throw in the way time changed with no signifier except for the main characters growing up from children to adults in a montage. It obviously took place over several years, but nothing in the story conveyed that except for the popularity or infamy of the circus. Several plot points were rushed or dropped, especially the way it ended.
I went in not expecting a lot and not a fan of musicals. The slower songs and poor character growth made me want to dislike the movie even more. The great songs and dancing made up for it with a lot of charm. Hugh Jackman and most of the oddities were fantastic, but Zac Efron and Michelle Williams seemed wasted in their roles. It didn’t shy away from showing that PT Barnum was not an upstanding citizen or even respected the oddities. He treated them as such several times and I do not recall him atoning for that at any point, except to use them as a means to an end again.
With that said, it is definitely something to see on the big screen. The backdrops are beautiful and when the songs are blaring and the dancers are dancing; it reminds you of the joy of cinema. I wouldn’t say you should rush out and see it during the Christmas holiday, but you should be fine waiting on a matinee.
My recommendation was immediately clear from the beginning. It is the other movie that features Hugh Jackman as an egomaniacal showman: The Prestige. It follows the same setup as a magic trick with a phenomenal twist. Even after learning the twist, there is so much more to discover. Everyone’s acting was on point and it was directed by Christopher Nolan. I know I end most recommendations by saying you should see if you haven’t already … but I mean it this time!