AUDIO: Tim reviews “The Greatest Showman” on the “KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard. Segment beings 8 minutes in.
“The Greatest Showman” (PG)
Given the number of liberties the filmmakers take with circus impresario P.T. Barnum and his work in the film, it’s hard to exactly call “The Greatest Showman” a musical biopic. Instead, it’s more of a musical drama that’s inspired by different points in Barnum’s life that’s set, naturally, in the 1800s, yet incorporates modern music. If it sounds like a massive challenge, it is — yet ultimately, “The Greatest Showman” becomes a dazzling spectacle that works wonders.
A passion project for Hugh Jackman, who sings, dances and emotes as Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” has been in development for years, and thanks to the good buzz and eventual acclaim and fortune experienced by “La La Land,” the timing is perfect for an original musical. Better yet, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters who wrote the Oscar-winning music for “La La Land” also wrote the music for “The Greatest Showman,” which explains why the music in the film is so engaging. And while the not all the tunes in “The Greatest Showman” are stellar or destined to become standards, the songs work within the context of the film, and are the keys to its success.
If you read up on Barnum, you’ll find out that he had a pretty eventful life apart from the circus, including that of a newspaper owner and a politician. The film, of course, focuses on the events that led up to the formation of his circus, which began as a museum for strange inanimate objects that didn’t do so well. When he introduced people of all shapes and sizes into the mix with different oddities into the mix, however, the show took off, but wasn’t entirely embraced by the public.
Directed by Jackman’s fellow Aussie Michael Gracey, “The Greatest Showman” also focuses on Barnum’s traveling promotion of opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), which was his attempt to legitimize himself in the eyes of the hifalutins and critics, who weren’t so kind to his show of oddities. A key subplot in the film, the inclusion of the Lind story helps flesh out some of the baggage Barnum carried from his youth into his adult life, and further helps balance the film in the showman’s desperate search for acceptance.
Apart from the show’s tunes, the cast is top-notch, from Zac Efron as Barnum’s business partner and Zendaya as an acrobat. The best in show honors in “The Greatest Showman,” though, go to the always-engaging Jackman and Michelle Williams, who plays his supporting wife and greatest confidant Charity Barnum.
Lammometer: 9 (out of 10)
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