The Greatest Showman: On The Nose And Off The Mark

For a movie about a guy who knew how to bring in an audience, The Greatest Showman didn’t even know what audience it was aiming for… I genuinely can’t tell you if it was made for musical-loving adults, or kids looking for the next High School Musical. I think it was about five minutes into the film when I started rolling my eyes; I tried to remain objective, but oh my goodness I did not like it. I love musicals, and biopics, and Hugh Jackman, but WOW this rubbed your nose in how good it could have been and just wasn’t.

The Greatest Showman is based on the life of P.T. Barnum (Jackman), a man without a cent to spare his entire life, who used his spirit and imagination to become a widely acclaimed (and of course criticized) Showman, and create the entirely new show business that came to be called the circus. Michelle Williams plays his wonderfully supportive wife, Charity Barnum, and Zac Efron plays his business partner, Phillip Carlyle, with some other great performances by Zendaya, Paul Sparks, Keala Settle, and the two adorable little girls Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely.

The messages in The Greatest Showman often felt a little juvenile, trying to teach kids that “if you just work hard enough, you can overcome all odds and reach the American dream,” it’s okay to be “different,” and oh yeah, interracial marriage is acceptable now. But then there were a lot of numbers like the one when Barnum and Carlyle first made their business deal in a pub, and were taking shot after shot after shot after shot – not quite the subtle hint or innuendo you typically see in a kids film, huh? I wanted to like it, because let’s be honest the guy who created the circus and made it a world-wide attraction has to have an interesting story, but it felt more like a history class you’re really looking forward to that ends up being taught by your least favorite professor…

A lot of what we see in The Greatest Showman was on the nose in regards to dialog and “character development,” off the mark in regards to what they were trying to portray as opposed to what would have been more appropriate (and more interesting), and just plain cheesy. The music was… rather uplifting. A bit too uplifting for my taste. It seemed like every song had at the very least a positive twist, which really didn’t allow for any character arc or plot development. And if it wasn’t positive and uplifting, there was a lot of soft-singing-on-the-verge-of-tears-or-some-other-serious-emotional-spillover. Let’s add overdone to the list of descriptors for The Greatest Showman. Just imagine Michelle Williams smiling wayyyy too hard on a roof full of hanging laundry, and then some dancer stand-ins for Jackman and Williams literally twirling through the laundry so fast they look like the spinny thingy in the middle of a washing machine. ??????

There were some very talented singers, actors, dancers, performers, etc., but even all of that talent combined couldn’t save The Greatest Showman. I enjoyed some aspects of course, but overall, I would say maybe go see something else instead? Or just watch the James Corden “Crosswalk the Musical on Broadway (w/ Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Zac Efron)” and call it a day.

The Greatest Showman: 4/10

Eliza McGowan-Stinski

I have been a barista for three years but don't drink coffee, probably have the world record for most texting/autocorrect mistakes ever made, and I don't talk to myself, I sing to myself. Sarcasm is my native language (being dramatic my second). I'm very passionate about writing and directing films, adventuring and exploring the world, leadership stuff, advocating for all things social progress-y, and just always striving to be a better human.

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