Director: Michael Gracey
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron
P.T Barnum Would Be Dancing In His Grave
“Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for” are the first words Hugh Jackman warbles in this box office smash hit. I’m not entirely sure that the world has been waiting for a jazz-handed, all-singing, all-dancing musical about P.T Barnum (the man who invented the business of show) but the audience numbers prove otherwise. Like a bad penny, Jackman’s returned to the world of musicals, only he’s looking a little happier in this one compared to Tom Hooper’s sprawling adaptation of Les Miserables and his voice is sounding a little better too! Or is that just the autotune?
Either way, Jackman and the rest of the cast look like they’re having the time of their lives in Michael Gracey’s infectiously joyous debut. I must admit to being a little apprehensive about seeing it, fearing the worst for a High School Musical-esque cheese-fest, but was immediately drawn in by the spectacular visuals and mighty music. From start to finish, The Greatest Showman does what P.T Barnum knew how to do best, entertain. The film moves at a glorious pace, piling on the impressive images and sounds until your senses feel overwhelmed. Gracey displays great skill and confidence from behind the camera, at best it displays similarities to Baz Luhrmann’s musical masterpiece, Moulin Rouge! It’s hard to believe that this is a film from a first-time director.
Unfortunately it’s the screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Oscar-winner Bill Condon which stop this show from soaring to the heights of Zendaya’s pink-haired trapeze artist. The story is undeniably cliché and predictable. It’s the rags to riches tale we’ve all seen countless times before, only this time with more song and dance routines. The film almost peaks too early by rushing through Barnum’s rise to stardom and then not giving our hero much to do through the rest of the running time. A flat love story is introduced between Zac Efron (who remains fully-clothed for once) and Zendaya but neither character is developed enough for us to care what happens. Shock, horror, Hugh gets too fame obsessed and ends up neglecting his wife and children only to realise his sins in the end so we can neatly tie a bow and let the credits roll. There are also moments of sugary sentimentality enough to make even the soppiest person cringe.
But in the end none of that matters, The Greatest Showman is a pleasure of the guiltiest kind. It knows exactly what kind of film it is and it does it very well. There isn’t a duff song in the film, although that’s no surprise given that the lyrics were penned by the duo who wrote for last year’s stupendous La La Land. The choreography is also top-notch, daring you not to take your eyes away from the screen. Despisers of musicals might want to steer clear, but those who are a sucker for a catchy showtune will undoubtedly find a lot to admire. It’s perhaps not something I’d shout from the rooftops and ruin my street cred, but I was a big fan and strangely I can’t wait to see it again.