Do you want an authentic biopic of P.T. Barnum, or do you want to enjoy some incredible music and dance numbers?
With “The Greatest Showman,” you get great tunes and not much history. Those who want the real story of Barnum should skip this movie that depicts a sanitized version of Barnum and his times.
For me, the musical numbers make the entire movie worthwhile. You won’t learn much about Barnum, but you’ll take away memorable tunes, including two showstoppers. This is a bona fide musical that’s short on story and long on song.
We first see Hugh Jackman as a disappointed man who wants to be in show business but just hasn’t quite made the grade.
The film flashes back to the childhood of Phineas, who, as a boy, helped his father, who was a tailor. Phineas and the girl who will become his wife (Michelle Williams) meet as children. Even though she must live with few resources, she believes in her husband and supports his dreams.
At last, Barnum decides to assemble a group of unusual people, including a trapeze artist (Zendaya,) a bearded lady (Keala Settle) and a small man (Sam Humphrey) to perform in his show along with a bevy of wild animals (most of which are computer-generated). Later, to add some class to his shows, he enlists the famed “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind to perform.
You won’t learn much about Barnum here. In fact, you won’t learn much about any of the characters at all. This isn’t for those who enjoy character development.
It is for music and musical lovers, though. First-time director Michael Gracey has created many astounding scenes, including a trapeze scene that’s one of the most romantic sequences of the year, as well as troupe song-and-dance numbers. “This Is Me,” led by the incredibly talented Settle, and “Never Enough” are heart-pounding sequences
The songs are by Oscar/Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land” and “Dear Evan Hansen”) so it’s no surprise that the tunes are catchy and clever, with an ear-pleasing, with their blend of Broadway and pop.
Jackman was born to play this part. He’s front and center all the way through, and he owns this movie with his terrific singing and acting. Zac Efron also is enjoyable as Barnum’s partner who finds himself in a (for the time period) forbidden romance.
The popularity of “La La Land” proved that audiences are longing for musicals. The enthusiastic audience in which I saw this movie proved that again: They cheered and applauded while the credits rolled.