The Greatest Showman hits theaters December 20th.
I’m a big fan of musicals, both onstage and on screen. Recently I’ve discovered the songwriting duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The pair is responsible for the movie La La Land and the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen‘s marvelous soundtracks. They even wrote a song for The Flash/Supergirl crossover! Clearly bursting with talent, their latest project has been over seven years in the making: A musical about P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), the creator of the modern circus. Unfortunately, while the movie has a stellar score, almost every other aspect falls flat.
Narratively, The Greatest Showman has many flaws. Director Michael Gracey attempts to cover every aspect of Barnum’s story, causing the film to often feel rushed. Additionally, it is a bit off-putting to see a problematic figure like Barnum turned into schmaltz. Luckily, the sensational musical numbers distract you from the mediocre script.
It was a great choice to fill the soundtrack with pop songs, despite the mid 1800s setting. The Greatest Showman truly feels modern in the best way, mixing fantastic tunes with period piece set design. None of the ten original songs are bad, but some certainly stand out more than others. While ‘This Is Me’ and ‘ The Greatest Show’ seem to be getting the most publicity, my favorite is ‘The Other Side’, in which Jackman tries to convince Zac Efron’s character to join him on his risky business venture. While Jackman’s voice is nothing special, he’s (thankfully) a lot better than he was in 2012’s Les Misérables.
The supporting cast is mostly great too, so it’s a shame they get almost nothing to do. Zendaya is fun to watch in the few scenes she is the focus in. Michelle Williams’ performance felt phoned in, although it’s unclear whether that was the fault of her or the director.
Ultimately, The Greatest Showman is an exciting theater experience that kids will thoroughly enjoy. Adults might notice lots of problems, but will be able to overlook them.
I give The Greatest Showman a B.