The Greatest Showman Review

20 Dec

…sure, why not?

Let’s get the bad out of the way first:

1) P.T. Barnum was a loathsome human being and the way the film celebrates and rewrites what he did is contemptible.

2) The story is pretty weak. There’s nothing wrong with a simple story, but a lot of the developments here feel inorganic. The film aggressively pushes an Efron-Zendaya romance right off the bat, but it never really coalesces into anything compelling.

3) The last act in particular features a flurry of plot points that occur at a hilariously rapid pace and are thus utterly nonsensical in terms of logical, meaningful story progression and development.

With all that being said:

Occasionally films come along that are so boisterously entertaining that typical barometers of film quality seem to just matter less (the same applied to <i>Kong: Skull Island</i> earlier this year). <i>The Greatest Showman</i> is one of those films. There’s something charming about the way it recognizes when its own story is losing steam, responding by urgently and ruthlessly eviscerating plot and character in favor of the next big musical set piece. There’s no better encapsulation of the film than a couple huge elephants stomping into the frame to signal the next high flying production. And you know what? It frequently works.

The opening sequence sets the tone perfectly. It announces itself with vicious resolve, its initial notes previewing what will become a blaring, exuberant flurry of life. The next musical sequence (“A Million Reasons”) showcases the softer side of the film, and with these two songs, you get a good idea of what you’ll be watching over the next 90 minutes. Later duets like “Rewrite the Stars” manage to gloss over the story issues for the duration of the song, precisely because you get the sense that the creative team really, truly believes in that sequence. Jackman is the clear standout from the cast, his earnestness never wavering and his charm always present. The relationship between Barnum and his daughters is the most endearing aspect of the story.

Does the film ultimately earn a sequence like “From Now On”, a loud, thrilling, and infectious inspirational anthem with thematic relevance? Not really. But by God, do they go for it. Do they try their hardest to make you believe they’ve earned every single second, every single frame, every single note. Pop excess in all its flawed glory.



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