Hit or Miss: A Review of ‘The Greatest Showman’

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

While the film attempts to address complex issues, it fails and relies on its cast and flashy special effects.

The Greatest Showman, a musical based on P.T. Barnum’s success story, boasts a star-studded cast. Hugh Jackman plays the titular (and extremely charismatic) character. By his side is Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, and Rebecca Ferguson.

Directed by newcomer, Michael Gracy, and featuring the lyricists behind La La Land, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, expectations were very high for this particular musical. The Greatest Showman earned $5.37 million at the box office this Friday and is expected to earn $53.8m in total. However, reviews were mixed.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film earned a 55%, and on Metacritic, it earned a 48 (out of 100) metascore (as of January 2, 2018). The average impression was that the movie, although attempting to wow the audience, played it too safe.

The Greatest Showman is targeted as the ultimate family movie, with the content steering away from any large societal discussion and boasting a PG rating. While the film attempts to address complex issues, it fails and relies on its cast and flashy special effects. With its refusal to get its hands dirty, the movie glides over darker implications, such as the marital troubles of Barnum and the xenophobia portrayed in the film. In a more competent film, the troubles affecting the various characters were either not addressed or they were smoothed over by a catchy musical number.

One main fault lied in Barnum’s conduct toward the circus performers. Without spoiling anything, there are more than a few scenes where he treats them like old dolls, using them but inevitably, afraid to take them out in public. However, this treatment is glossed over with the performers forgiving Barnum after a hasty apology.

The shallowness of the story is only combated by the performances of the lead actors. Hugh Jackman contributes his natural charisma and talent to the role, and the love story between Zac Efron’s character and Zendaya’s is endearing. In addition, the music is fantastic with standouts such as “This Is Me” and “The Greatest Show” permanently sticking in the audience’s heads.

However, these strengths cannot hide the flaws of The Greatest Showman, which is conclusively, shallow.

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