by Ian Morton
Now that La La Land has reinvigorated the musical, it was only a matter of time before rival studios jumped on the proverbial bandwagon to take advantage of the resurrected genre. With many productions in development across all major studios, it’s 20th Century Fox out the gate first with the entertaining but largely forgettable, The Greatest Showman.
Inspired by the life and times of PT Barnum, Hugh Jackman takes on the role of ringmaster in a story exploring the famed businessman during the creation and promotion of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
In terms of direction it’s relatively simple fayre, with little innovation in terms of visuals and general framing. Forcibly packing in much more than is needed, the film does struggle with pacing and tone but considering its overall aim isn’t necessarily to win any awards come Oscar season, these issues are hardly offensive.
As you probably expect from La La Land collaborators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the toe tapping songs are more than enough to keep you entertained for just shy of 2 hours. Similar to Baz Luhrmann’s, Moulin Rouge and Rob Marshall’s, Chicago, the modern take does work for the most part within the wider context of the story but occasionally feels out of place, leading to some surprisingly jarring moments.
As mentioned, the story itself is told at lightning speed, opting to ignore any real depth in order to fit in as much as they can. The same effect is felt when trying to establish the direction of its moral compass. As with most films around the holidays, there are a few morals to take home but they all seemingly get lost in the crowd when trying to work out what The Greatest Showman is really trying to say. While on the surface this may not seem like particularly bad thing, the overall product never really adds up to the sum of its parts as the final scenes just meld together without any real pay off.
Heading things up nicely is the lead performance from Hugh Jackman. Setting the scene early, Jackman shines as PT Barnum in a role that benefits from the natural charisma and likability exuding from the Aussie actor. Seeing Zac Efron jumping back into song and dance is certainly a sight for sore eyes but it’s just a shame he isn’t given more, particularly as one of the best scenes is a cheeky set piece with Him and Jackman just chewing things up!
In reality, this is a point and shoot film from a relatively inexperienced director rather than genre challenging masterpiece from one more experienced. While the songs don’t entirely work and story is slightly overstuffed, altogether it’s a relatively inoffensive way to spend a Sunday afternoon! 3 out of 5 stars.
Check out what we thought of last year with our top 10 of 2017: