Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong story, great songs, wonderful cast
Cons: It’s called the “Greatest.” How can the greatest have cons?
The Bottom Line:
The life of Barnum
That is a must see
A Movie Worthy of the Greatest Showman
I know some people who try to avoid the previews in theaters, but I always try to see them. It was through one of those previews that I first heard about The Greatest Showman. I was immediately intrigued, and the praise I heard from friends only made me want to see it more. I finally got to see it last week, and all the praise was well deserved.
The movie tells us what I suspect is a highly fictionalized version of the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, better known to us as P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), creator of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. We first meet him as a little boy with big dreams who falls in love with a girl well above his station in life. While he and Charity (Michelle Williams) do eventually get married, they struggle in life and Barnum has a hard time keeping a job.
That is until one day when he decides to open a museum of the weird in New York City. That soon begins to include people who don’t fit into the norms of society. While Barnum is making enough money to finally support his wife in the way he wants to, he still isn’t happy because high society is looking down on him. Will he ever be able to get their approval?
I must admit, I went into this film with no knowledge of the life of P.T. Barnum. What I’ve read very briefly now confirms my suspicion at the time that this movie combines lots of aspects of his life into something that makes for a better movie story, so don’t go into this movie looking for anything related to the truth.
But go watch this movie. It came out at Christmas, and that was the perfect time for it. It is an uplifting, life affirming movie. Over the course of the movie, we see the effects of classism, racism, and prejudice in all it’s ugly forms. Do I suspect that the real people weren’t as open minded as these characters were in the 1800’s? Quite possibly. But it doesn’t matter because the result here is so wonderful because we see people looking beyond the trappings and loving each other for who they really are. That’s what makes this movie so wonderful.
The best part is the movie tackles these subjects without preaching at us. The morals come out of the story and the character growth we see. Yes, this is a drama and not full of action or plot twists, but it is a great story that kept me entertained the entire time.
And yes, the music is a huge part of that. This is a musical, with all original songs, and the songs are absolutely wonderful. They are modern pop/rock numbers and not traditional Broadway style songs. Marrying modern songs with a story set in the 1800’s might not have been my first thought, but it works absolutely perfectly here, and I loved the music enough to go out and buy the soundtrack as soon as I could.
With a circus setting, there is opportunity for some wonderful choreography, and the movie succeeds here as well. There are some absolutely stunning moves that could only happen in a film. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen during the songs.
Frankly, the movie is visually stunning in other ways. The costumes and sets, while in keeping with the time, work in some vivid colors that truly pop out.
And the cast shines. Whether singing or bringing the quieter moments to life, they are all fantastic. There isn’t a weak performance in the bunch.
Obviously, I can’t praise this movie enough. It will entertain you from the very first minute until the very last. You really do need to go see The Greatest Showman today.