The Greatest Showman Review


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Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum, a ring master in the circus.

Shabeeba Kasem and Maya Ferrell

“The Greatest Showman,” a movie based on the dazzling life of entrepreneur turned ringmaster, P.T. Barnum, came out this December amidst lots of critical acclaim. The film’s trailer amassed millions of views and boasted an accomplished cast of talented and well-loved celebrities like Zendaya, Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman.

Filmed and written as a musical, “The Greatest Showman” boasts an array of songs created by several talented musicians and are the highlight of the movie. Alex Lacamoire, the executive music producer of the film is well-known for his work on “In the Heights”, “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hamilton”, and he has won several Tony and Grammy awards for his musical talents. The opening song of the movie, “This is Me” also recently won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

However, the music numbers did little to electrify the poorly-strung together plot of the movie and the rather conventional and uninteresting  depiction of life in a circus.

The movie narrates the life of P.T. Barnum, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, who, midway through his journey of life and career, is laid off from his clerical job and decides to invest in a wax model museum. This risky venture proves to be a disappointing asset, if even that. Barnum has to reimagine his business, and under the persuasion of his young children, he sets out to assemble a “freakshow.”

Soon enough, Barnum puts together a gaggle of misfits who are given a chance to perform in his circus. On face value, this storyline has the potential to highlight every character’s individuality and trials, but instead the movie fast forwards through musical numbers, prioritizing songs over an actual film plot. As the minutes tick on, the movie attempts to address issues of race, greed and fraud-a difficult undertaking for a production lasting just above an hour and a half.

However, when reflecting upon the actual complexity and entertainment of the film we came to the conclusion that it lacks depth and superficially simplifies what could have been an elaborate and exciting plot. There is no in-depth view into the lives of the circus’ performers, who are arguably the most intriguing characters in the film. Actress Zendaya plays an entrancing trapeze artist, however her act isn’t displayed more than once and her only addition to the plot is as a love interest of Zac Efron. For a movie boasting the storyline of an exciting group of ragtag  performers, the film did not actually show much of their performances.

It is clear to any viewer that the songs had been skillfully written and the melodies created to be hummed for months after viewing, but the musical performances felt like a string music videos, separate from the rest of the movie. Each number disturbed the flow of the plot and sounded heavily autotuned.

And  the central theme of the movie,- the harms of greed and excess- is certainly a wonderful message, but it was not fully exhibited until the last quarter of the movie. Too much focus was given to fringe underdog stories and the musical numbers for one to leave the theatre with a sense of having witnessed the exhilarating ensemble performances of the so-called “Greatest Showman.”

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