#REVIEW: ” THE GREATEST SHOWMAN”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) wants to make something of himself and provide for his family. After a failed museum venture, Barnum creates a show filled with odd and unique performers. But Barnum’s greed and ambition may be getting in the way of his Circus’ ultimate success.
As a purely-visual experience, The Greatest Showman delivers in spades. The Set Design and Costumes are impeccably-detailed, wonderfully blending with the CGI where necessary. The colours are vivid and practically explode off the screen in a way that 3D cannot compete. The Choreography on display throughout the Film’s songs is done impeccably, echoing the work of any number of grand Broadway Musicals from the past few decades. First-time Director Michael Gracey and his crew have created a sumptuous feast for the eyes, with not one visual detail spared bringing this Spectacle to life.
The Film’s content however is another story. It is not as enlightening on Barnum’s life or the lives of his circus performers as we’d hope, rather this Musical merely is inspired by those tall tales. The First Act is all set-up (including an incredibly quick “growing up” number that feels shorter than this sentence) and the rest of the Film feels like a truncated greatest hits reel lacking a real depth. The Film’s resolution admittedly feels rushed and disingenuous – especially with the message of self-acceptance it tries to deliver. We cannot help but feel as though large swaths of information have been removed entirely and this is glaring when it touches upon Barnum‘s relationship with Rebecca Ferguson‘s Jenny Lind. The Greatest Showman clocks-in at 105-minutes, but with its scope and ambition, it should be much longer.
I am a fan of the Ensemble-sung opening track “The Greatest Show”, but found that my enjoyment varied between these songs by Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The Second Act showstopper definitively is “Never Enough” (sung by The Voice‘s Loren Allred). The songs do become catchy after more than a week of listening to the Soundtrack.
While The Greatest Showman packs a large cast, there are very few standouts. Zac Efron revives his High School Musical-era singing and dancing with ease, but is never given an opportunity to make a lasting impression. The same goes for his love interest Zendaya, who continually is undercut and underused. Michelle Williams fares even worse, with a performance and singing voice that suggest she might have been miscast. But as expected, Jackman towers over everyone. He tears into every scene and song with an overpowering enthusiasm that propels the Film through to its finale. He believes in this project clearly and puts every ounce of effort he can, offsetting its shortcomings. And while I wish she got to do more in the Film, relative unknown Keala Settle soars through her vocal performances, each one better than the last.
The Greatest Showman is stunning in its visuals, but falls a bit flat overall, not quite coming together as cohesively as it should. Jackman’s passion for the project burns through the entirety.
20th Century Fox Canada release THE GREATEST SHOWMAN on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.