By Jacob Mello (Austin, TX, US)

 

· Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum. About the birth of show business and the visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.
· A musical.
· Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron.

A movie that proves, once and for all, it doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short, fat or thin, black or white, bearded or shaved – ANYONE has the power to become mediocre.

Heading into this one, I felt the same way as most people, I assume – pissed at my lack of options this close to Christmas. The good news is: it was much better than I thought it would be! The bad news is: that’s still not that great.

Look, I don’t claim to be an expert in the musical genre (a strategy I’d recommend to most) but it seems pretty apparent to me that when making a movie set in the 1870’s, you should write your soundtrack around traditional folk music – or hell even big band stuff, we’re willing to work with you here – that way, you immerse your audience in the times and set the scene a little. Instead (and I get why, but that doesn’t make it anymore forgivable) this group decided the move was to go as 2010’s era pop ballad heavy as possible. I can practically hear the KIDZ BOP version already (that’s still a thing, right?).

The music wasn’t bad, it just didn’t fit. Not only in genre, but in terms of the lyrics coinciding with the characters actions. The sideshow performers constantly sang about dancing to the beat of their own drum and telling the world to look out, “I make no apologies, this is me!” They would boast. This all of course until the slightest glance darted their way from the Hhhwhite, patriarchal, one percenters. Cue in The Greatest Showman himself – Mr. P.T. Barnum. The creator and controller of said sideshow. We first meet him as but a humble man with a dream – and a handful of dance numbers to go along with his songs about being a humble man with a dream. The problem is, as the first act ends, it becomes more and more clear that his big “dream” is pretty much just to somehow get filthy rich to spite his father in law. Believe me, I get it. I mean, damn it, do I get it! But that’s not exactly as inspiring a journey as the songs would have us believe.

The real acrobatics in this film were in how they managed to contort the P.T. Barnum story to fit this cutesy ‘we’re all the same, yet unique’ narrative. That being said, even after ignoring the fact that they omitted some seriously appalling details from the real-life story in order to carve out this vibrant wholesome circus tale, the plot was still iffy at best (a man realizes he can profit off the talent, sweat and spectacle of a minority of people who are seen, in their own time, as being subhuman). It was Hugh Jackman’s powerful performance as Oskar Schindl—P.T. Barnum that kept this circus alive. A performance I dare say is easily in the running for his second best musical performance in which his characters life trajectory changes after stealing a loaf of bread.

This film won’t stand the test of time and only got as far as it did by juggling around some low hanging fruit, but if you don’t care about historical accuracy and are just looking to see some fun dance numbers, eh, it’ll do for now.

PRESCRIPTION:

For a better Hugh Jackman musical: Watch Les Misérables.
For a better modern musical: Watch Rent, La La Land (featuring the same lyricists as this film), Dreamgirls.

Rating: 3/5

BEST QUOTES

 

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