Distributed By: 20th Century FOX
Opening Theatrical Release Date: December 20th 2017
DVD/Blu Ray Release Date: April 10th 2018
Reviewed by Jonathan Andre
The Greatest Showman – Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, Keala Settle, Rebecca Ferguson
What do you reckon is the most popular movie of the 2017/18 period? What movie would come to mind? Would it be the latest instalment of The Avengers (Avengers: Infinity War), or even the new movie and addition to the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther? Or maybe the highly critically acclaimed A Star is Born featuring both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, or even the long awaited sequel to The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2? Then when you think of movies like Crazy Rich Asians, BlacKkKlansman, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Bohemian Rhapsody, Game Night, Ready Player One, Oceans 8, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and the ever nostalgic and even emotional Christopher Robin, you smile to yourself, pleased because you know that 2018 was a great year for movies. The popular movies, by far, have all been the ones where I’m sure you’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed. But this review isn’t really about popular movies per se. it’s about a movie in particular, a movie not made in 2018, but in 2017, but, to many people’s surprise, has taken the world by storm, even more so than all these movies I’ve just listed. A movie that I’m sure everyone has seen by now (if you haven’t, then…well, just go watch it before you even continue reading this review, and then come back and you can carry on reading!), this movie that I’m about to endeavour to discuss, is one such movie that has made an impact on myself, as I’m sure everyone else who watches this.
So yes, The Greatest Showman was indeed released in 2017, but, as I’m sure everyone is aware, this is a movie like no other, a musical where it’s message of hope and its heart to reach people and impact them with dreams, imagination, and the spirit of unity, has reminded us all of the power of storytelling, and how one such movie can inspire millions and millions around the world, understanding full well that often in such a time as this, movies, tv shows, music and the general media have the power to impact a generation to start undertaking social and personal change in the places they are in. The Greatest Showman was a film that while it wasn’t expected to succeed the amount that it did, it is a reminder that often the things that we expect to fail, the underdogs if you will, are what will teach us the most, encouraging ourselves to take risks and challenge beyond what we can see and know. Starring Australian Hugh Jackman as well as High School Musical alum Zac Efron, this is a movie if you are indeed a fan of musicals like The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked or even The Sound of Music.
By now, almost a year later, I can probably assume the fact that most, if not all of the population of the world, has seen The Greatest Showman, and know the plot inside out. But then there are those that haven’t seen the movie. Nevertheless, for the benefit of all those who don’t know the movie for one reason or another; the movie itself is based upon the life of PT Barnum, a philanthropist and visionary whose flair for the dramatic led him to quit his day job, and on a whim start the birth of what is now considered the circus. Indeed, The Greatest Showman tells of the very first circus, and the life of how Barnum rose from the depths of poverty to become a worldwide phenomenon during his day. The movie then delves into the people inside his circus, as well as what he should do with his newfound fame, at times overnight fame. The movie, standing at 100 minutes long, is choreographed to fit around 9 (11 if you include a reprise of a few songs) songs, all of them sung in their entirety in the movie. So for the story to in effect, be told in a little under an hour, in this current story-telling climate, is almost unheard of. Nevertheless, The Greatest Showman, music and all, created an intriguing storyline, enough for us to remain curious throughout the whole entire movie.
While the acting and the music choreography was out of this world (let’s just say that by watching this movie, I am firmly convinced that Hugh Jackman is by far one of the world’s most talented actors that are in the craft, currently), the storyline itself has been taken a few liberties, and quite right so…this is a PG musical, and a Hollywood one at that, and so, a few artistic licences here and there is what was needed for the rating of PG to pass. Nevertheless, the story of PT Barnum of the movies was somewhat different compared to the man in real life, in fact the strikingly different moment was that of between Barnum and Jenny Lind- that wasn’t even part of the original story in the first place. Still, in spite of the mishaps, the movie overall was great, sending a message of hope and diversity, something we all need today. While I could go on and on about the movie, I won’t because let’s just say that half, if not most, of the movie itself is singing. Which isn’t bad. Just different. And as Hugh himself unveiled a recent forbes.com article, the version of Barnum that was shown to audiences was such a man that can ‘…turn lemons into lemonade,” who sees things that others don’t, that celebrates diversity. He can see an opportunity in diversity, but ultimately, he’s not a perfect man. His obsession to succeed and overcome the poverty of his youth possibly led him to take his family for granted, or even his circus family for granted. The subplot with Jenny Lind was probably dramatically about as far as we could take it. By the way, and a lot of people thought that that was all just glossed over. It’s much closer to the truth. I can tell you that I’ve read 37 books on him. Tom Thumb got married in his house and lived there for many years. A lot of the “oddities” lived with him, and he made them incredibly wealthy and famous. When he lost his money, which he did seven times in his life, one of the times, his backer was Tom Thumb. You’ve got to remember, this is in the era of 1850, where they were considered by everyone else as cursed by God and the bottom of the rung and hidden by their families in basements. So he stood up for them. And so that part of [the story] is true…’
I don’t think anyone even predicted the success of The Greatest Showman, yet, here we are almost a year later, and the movie and soundtrack are still making an impact, even today. This is by far one of 2017’s best, and a must have if you love all things circus, musical, or both. And while I reckon this movie can still be polarising, even now, to showcase the real version of PT Barnum would make this movie not really kid-friendly, which I’m sure it was what was envisaged from the beginning, to make the movie for all ages. And while it may take some time for me to warm up to the musical genre in general, this new movie from 20th Century FOX is enough for me to take an interest in musicals once again. Who knows, maybe a re-watch of Mamma Mia 1 before I watch the second one at a later date? Kudos and congrats to Hugh Jackman and the rest of the cast, that has made this movie a piece of history! Can’t wait to whatever the next musical is in the future- the question is, can the next musical beat the box office values of The Greatest Showman, whenever the movie/s releases?
RIYL: The Phantom of the Opera, Annie, The Sound of Music, Wicked: The Musical, Grease