“The noblest art is that of making others happy.” ~ P.T. Barnum
While it’s unashamedly over-the-(big) top and not necessarily the most brilliant motion picture to emerge from the tent, one thing is for sure about the circus musical, ‘The Greatest Showman’, a tale inspired by the unusual life of Mr. Barnum…..it DOES make you happy. Tough for something this big and with this much heart to miss.
An origin story of sorts for the founder of the Barnum & Bailey circus, the concept IS a little dangerous – after all, this is a feel-good movie about a man who was described by some as a snake-oil salesman. (Remember the old saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”? Guess who it’s attributed to?) So, no doubt a few facts were twisted and sprinkled with a heap of old-fashioned musical dust to make us all sleep better. Hey…..it works.
Hugh Jackman is the ringmaster of the big show, and rarely…..even when he’s sporting claws….has he flat out dominated like he does here. Yes, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams (who knew she could sing??) and Zendaya are in the picture as well, and yes, they’re great. But Jackman puts his all behind both vocals and hips to anchor a movie that has a pretty sweet message about individuality and acceptance behind it, even though storytelling ain’t exactly the priority here.
First-time director Michael Gracey knows full well that his film is only as good as the song-and-dance ditties which is likely why whatever there IS of a script for ‘The Greatest Showman’ seems like time-filling transitions into the next big number. Thankfully, just about every number is worth the wait. Good show, team. Good show.