roll up! roll up!
Ok, so The Greatest Showman may not be the greatest show on earth, but I defy you not to come out of Hugh Jackman’s latest outing without a spring in your step and a grin on your face.
This is the return to movie musicals that we were promised with La La Land, only to be let down by the not so happy ending. This is true song and dance, where every event and emotion sparks a tune. This is classic 40s musical territory, where enduring earworm hits are strung together by the thinnest of plots, but nobody cares because they are just so good.
Of course, the nay-sayers will no doubt complain that the modern songs are out of place in the Victorian setting, but I don’t think PT Barnum would’ve had a problem with it. I believe he would’ve applauded the idea of bringing his story to the widest possible audience by whatever crowd pleasing means were necessary.
Don’t get me wrong; there were several points at which I really wanted to hate this film, especially as it slipped dangerously close to High School Musical, with the presence of Zac Efron not helping the comparison one bit. But every time my grin started to sour, another belting tune came along and I was hooked all over again.
Imagine the opening ‘freeway’ scene of La La Land extended to an hour and three quarters, and you’ve got a good measure of The Greatest Showman. This is not trying to be a biopic of Barnum. It barely touches on the issues of exploitation that are writ large across the whole circus show. What it is trying to do is give us a sense of the showman, the energy and enthusiasm, imagination and innovation that made PT Barnum the legend that he is today. And by that measure it succeeds in some style.
The Greatest Showman is one of those films that reminds us of why we go to the cinema in the first place. We go for a bit of escapism, a bit of a show. We go for the grand spectacle and for the smallest of intimate moments. We go in hoping to come out feeling differently, feeling better.
I came out of The Greatest Showman feeling great and grinning like a loon. If that makes me shallow and easily sold, then that’s fine. PT Barnum would’ve loved that!
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