Hugh Jackman retired his claws and ran away to join the circus in the new film, The Greatest Showman. The film chronicles the man who gave birth to the big top, Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum, who didn’t come from much but was ambitious enough to risk everything he and his family had to open up a museum of wonders in New York and bring joy to those who would come.
Director Michael Gracey and writers Bill Condon and Jenny Bicks ran off and told the story of how the first circus came into being. How it all started with a man who came from nothing, driven by a promise he made to the girl who would become his wife and the urge to entertain, collected outcasts and misfits and turned them into something that no one else has ever seen before.
The Greatest Showman is powered first and foremost by the galaxy of stars that round out its cast. Hugh Jackman in the center ring, aided by Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Matteen II, Eric Anderson, Austin Johnson, Cameron Seely, Ellis Rubin and Skylar Dunn round out a very talented and diverse cast of performers that give this movie lungs strong enough to make their voices heard.
The film is at its strongest when music is playing and/or when songs are sung. John Debney and Joseph Trapanese accompanied with songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul deliver a soundtrack that will linger with audiences for a long time. In fact, I believe this movie has a potential frontrunner to win Best Original Song for the track This is Me.
Ultimately, if I could find the best way to describe The Greatest Showman, it would be to say that it is wasteful. Gracey, Condon and Bicks have the talent and the music to make this movie stand out but I feel that because of how it’s written, it feels like it wastes the gifts it were given.
This movie itself is a circus of subplots that are juggled together so dangerously, it feels like it’s standing on a knife’s edge, ready to fall apart. In it, you have a rags-to-riches tale, mixed with a star-crossed lovers drama, a forbidden love scandal, an underdog story and the movie just falls to balance everything appropriately while interweaving between them and I think there were a lot of missed opportunities worth exploring in the writing of this picture.
The production value of The Greatest Showman is a mixed bag. Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is well done but I think there were too many cooks in the kitchen as far as the editing was concerned; Tom Cross, Robert Duffy, Joe Hutshing, Michael McCusker, Jon Poll and Spencer Susser were all credited with editing this film, the production design, courtesy of Nathan Crowley seemed a bit too neat for the setting and Laura Ballinger’s art direction didn’t take enough risks. Ellen Mirojnick’s costumes were lovely and the make-up team did nice work.
I was entertained to a certain extent with The Greatest Showman but I didn’t feel as though all the pieces of the picture didn’t fit together, so in summary, I believe the showman did a nice job. The rest of the show? Meh.