The title of the movie, “The Greatest Showman”, is not an exaggeration. If a showman got someone who obsessively hates most musicals to actual not only like but love a musical, greatness has been achieved.
I went into this movie expecting a cheesy, boring, plotless movie that was only popular due to it’s somewhat annoyingly catchy soundtrack. Instead, I got the opposite. Within the first 5 minutes I already had goosebumps of joy, and that alone set the mood for the rest of the 104 minute run time.
The film is inspired by the story of the legendary and ambitious Phineas Taylor Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman. Barnum was an American showman, businessman, sometime politician, and philanthropist best remembered for founding the Barnum’s American Museum and the Barnum and Bailey Circus, the first of its kind. As well as for promoting human curiosities and hoaxes as the featured performers of his show, which just ended this past year according to Smithsonian.
As for the historical context of the film, the story take place after the Civil War, where remnants of racism were still prevalent, even in the North, and Wall Street and the railroad were popular and unreliable forms of income. P.T Barnum takes the negatives of the time period and embraces them to become a self made millionaire, both in the film and in real life.
Barnum finds what he calls “unique persons”, and fully embraces them and all of their oddities by giving them an opportunity. Despite the constant hate and persecution they received from the public and even their own families. Tall, short, round, bearded, flexible, black, you name it, Barnum loved it. The characters and their story can be reflected even in today’s society, even if the story was over a 100 years ago. Lessons of equality, self-love, and persistence are all themes that have a profound and deeply thoughtful meaning conveyed by the film.
These themes work hand in hand with an absolutely beautiful soundtrack. There was not one song in the entire movie where every hair on my body wasn’t standing up in applause. Each lyric is genetically fueled with pure joy to the effect that it literally makes you want to get out of your seat and dance annoyingly in the middle of the theatre. In times of such darkness and negativity in the world, a movie of pure joy is exactly what people need.
However, there were a couple of songs that were not bad by any means, they just were not as good compared to the rest of the masterful and Oscar nominated soundtrack. With that, there were a couple of points where the drama was really intense and the audience was heavily invested in the dialogue, but then the characters would break out in song. This is not necessarily bad, just borderline unnecessary.
In particular, the first bar scene where we see Barum and Efron’s character, Phillip Carlyle in a bar discussing their partnership, it would have been a good opportunity to flex their acting chops in some meaty dialogue, but then they breakout into whimsical song, which is not bad, just not what felt right tone wise.
The film tries to take some dramatic turns that doesn’t exactly fit with the grand and amazing spectacle most of the film holds, but again, these slight inconsistencies do not significantly damage the quality of the film at all. This is seen in the scandal that follows Barnum along his tour across the world.
Audiences will be pleased to see that Zac Efron, alumni of High School Musical, is making his return to the musical industry, and to great success, as if old Troy Bolton majored in theatre and became a singer. In addition to Efron, cultural phenomenon and absolute beauty Zendaya makes her breakout film debut following Spider-Man: Homecoming to surprising success. Zendaya and Efron share the screen beautifully with older generations of Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams.
The film’s success is also remarkable in of itself. Box office wise, “The Greatest Showman” goes against the modern trend of a movie making all of its money in its opening weekend, then slowly trickling for following weeks of its release. Instead, the film has utilized the wonderful tool of word of mouth, and has slowly been rising in sales since its release. This is extremely rare for a movie, completely original in script, with no sequels or superheroes, and even a musical to have this kind of success. This trend hasn’t been seen in movies since “Titanic” or “Chicago”.
Even if you absolutely hate musicals, you need to go see this movie as soon as you can. It is a true and genuine rush of imagination and wonder that most people haven’t felt since they were a child. 5/5 stars.