If the only thing you knew about this movie was its title, you would still have a good idea about what it’s going to be like. The Greatest Showman just sounds like something that’s going to be fun and entertaining the whole way through. And that’s exactly what this movie is. The three aspects the film has going for it are positive themes, a cast with a good amount of star power and most of all, extremely catchy and memorable music.
The premise of the movie is that P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is promoting his new museum. The museum is initially filled with taxidermy animals, which weren’t attracting any people. But when P.T.’s daughter tells him he needs more “alive things,” he hires a variety of “acts” – as they are referred to in the film – to perform in what becomes his circus. All of these people have been rejected by society, their families or both, but each has their own special talent. There is a woman with a beard who has an amazing singing voice, an African-American brother and sister trapeze duo and many more. When the circus begins to have success, all of these people begin to feel like they have a place in the world and use the word “family” to describe the bond they share.
This is where the positive themes pick up. All of the people in the circus begin to get a sense of belonging because Barnum puts them in a position where they are not looked down upon. They are recognized for their abilities and for who they are more than for what they look like. In the song “This Is Me,” all of these characters begin to feel confident in who they are for the first time. There is good personal progress for all of them because of the opportunity Barnum gave them. It fosters an attitude of inclusiveness that is heartwarming and constructive.
Barnum is also motivated by providing for his family. He promised his wife a certain life, which he is always trying to provide for her. He chases his dreams at the same time as putting his family first. And through all of it, he knows that accomplishing his dreams and goals will not be easy or comfortable. He says, “Comfort is the enemy of progress” when trying to accomplish something. It’s a good lesson for anyone trying to do something new and out of their comfort zone.
The cast is another part of the movie that adds to its brilliance. Led by Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman’s cast also boasts the likes of Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson. Without any of them being given much character depth, they’re able to give standout performances with heart and energy. Jackman is the standout in this group as the lead, but the whole cast does a good job with the roles they are given.
The best part of the film, though, is the music. Almost every one of the mixed-genre songs has the potential to get stuck in your head. And watching the choreography that goes along each one is, as the title suggests, a great show. The music starts behind the opening logos with the ensemble rock ballad “The Greatest Show.” From this point on, you know that you’re in for a movie full of catchy music that will keep your attention, even when other parts of it falter. “A Million Dreams” sets the stage for the story as it shows young P.T. Barnum growing into the man he becomes. “The Other Side” is effectively a negotiation that gets turned into an awesome song and “Rewrite the Stars” is a duet between two characters trying to express their feelings for each other. Each song’s lyrics are impeccably written and go along with each song’s style very well.
With all of these positives, though, there are still a couple of negative aspects of the film. Because it is so focused on the music, it is unable to fully develop most characters. We get an introduction to them and learn one or two things about them, but apart from that, they are mostly one dimensional.
The plot also suffers from being cliché almost the whole way through. None of the story beats were all that surprising. The emotion in this movie doesn’t come from a new and exciting story, but from the themes portrayed through the story and the music used to deliver it.
The Greatest Showman will more than keep your attention throughout its 105-minute runtime. The radiant positivity and charming cast will give you a good feeling as you move out into the hallways of Boyer, and you’ll be humming the music as you walk to class on Monday morning and beyond.
You can see The Greatest Showman at Parmer Cinema on Friday, March 23rd at 6 and 9 p.m. and Saturday the 24th at 3, 6 and 9 p.m.