Directed by: Michael Gracey.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Keala Settle.
Plot: Phineas T Barnum is a poor man with great aspirations to bring spectacle & wonder to 19th Century America and indeed, the world.
The longstanding and grand tradition of the cinematic musical is a genre that has enjoyed something of a resurgence since the early 00’s with Moulin Rouge and it is enjoying something of a renaissance today with the likes of La La Land gaining both critical & commercial success last year and scooping a whole bunch of nominations & awards also. At the end of last year The Greatest Showman was released to similar rumblings of greatness heading into this award season but just how good is it?
In part, it’s very good, it’s a well constructed, family-friendly, visual spectacular of a movie, a well-casted & performed piece of musical escapism with a memorable and expertly crafted contemporary soundtrack which fits into the films period setting remarkably well. Now, Is the film an accurate portrayal of P.T Barnam and his ideals? Not even close. The man who is reported to have coined the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute” is in The Greatest Showman painted as some kind of altruistic celebrant of that which is different, a wide eyed entrepreneur eager to share a little magic with the world rather than the hypocritical and exploitative huckster that he was in reality, basically the film makes him younger, more handsome and smooths over the bad parts of his life to deliver a sweet, affirming, feel-good story of celebrating ones differences in the face of derision, that’s no bad thing, just don’t be expecting to be hearing the gospel truth of the mans life.
The Greatest Showman does offer a strong and able cast to deliver the song & dance pizazz required. Hugh Jackman, as with any musical role he undertakes, is amazing. The strength of his vocal performance and his attack of the choreography really is spot on. Able support is offered through those with unknown vocal talent such as Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson and those who are no stranger to holding a tune like Zac Effron, Zendaya and the fierce vocal talent of newcomer Keala Settle.
The Greatest Showman is massively enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, no matter how historically inaccurate it may be, It has show-stopping musical ear-worms that will be rolling around in your head long after the credits roll and This Is Me will undoubtedly bag the film a Best Song Oscar. It may not be anywhere near the best of what the genre has to offer, however, If you are a fan of musicals, you’ll certainly enjoy this film which is a testament that this cinematic genre is very much alive and kicking in the 21st Century.