Spoiler-Free Review: The Greatest Showman

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Once again, Hugh Jackman is sent into the past, sports a set of sideburns, and faces obstacles affecting his family, his finance, and his freedom.  Only with a troupe of outcasts can he finally achieve the sense of excitement he truly craves. As Wolverine, he has an admantium skeleton, a berserker rage, and flurry of claws. This time, he portrays  P.T Barnum, of the Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, he sports a top hat, a golden voice, and throws around flourishes in choreographed dances.

The Greatest Showman, directed by Michael Gracey, is a musical very, very, loosely based on the creation of the infamous circus. I tend not to be a fan of movies based on real events. I find that they rarely adapt well, and more often than not, do they give the characters, or even the events themselves, justice. One of the biggest offenders (in my opinion)  was Ben Affleck’s Argo, but that is beside the point. P.T Barnum does not look at all like Hugh Jackman, and Zac Efron plays a character that never even existed despite being a major plot point. This movie has all the ingredients to be a terrible film. It added new characters, more than a few anachronisms, and changed history all for the sake of drama. But, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. The plot is incredibly generic:  a man wants something more, he gets it, he fails, he learns a lesson, and he is reborn. There are no twists, turns, and ironically, unlike his group of sideshow attractions, this movie will not really shock you.

I know very little about the history of this circus, except its treatment of animals. I know even less about the man Jackman plays. Was he a con man? A silver-tongued devil? An incredible family man? It’s all a mystery to me, and I can be certain that this movie is certainly a simple adaptation brought to the silver screen. Despite all of this, I can say that Hugh Jackman is one of the greatest showman. He can dance, he can sing, and he is delightful in this film. He conveys such a wide variety of emotion, from absolute adoration to the show, to complete surrender to a beautiful voice. He is spectacularly entertaining, and is one of the main reasons why this movie is worth watching. Michelle Williams was barely in the movie, and Zendaya was billed far too high to be a main character. Zac Efron, had his moments with his duets.

This is still a musical, and the focus should be on the spectacle, the sound, and the performers. The biggest flaw in the look and feel had to be the conspicuous CGI, and the very obvious lip-synching. I can’t tell if this was all done tongue-n cheek. What better way to talk about the greatest show in elaborate lies, exaggerated events, and colourful imagery?  Though the costumes were nice, the set design was off-putting at times, and the animals looked no better than a scene from a video game. But that soundtrack. The moment the movie switched from plot to music, things started to get passionate.  The music and songs were beautiful. They were energetic, catchy, and on many occasions hit that note that gave me chills. Loren Allred (the singing voice for Jenny Lind) is more than just a delight, she’s practically angelic. The dance sequences were jaw-dropping. They were extravagant, over the top, and beautifully done.  It perfectly represents what the circus is all about: spectacle and fun.

The Greatest Showman is incredibly flawed, problematic, and generic. There are times it looks beautiful, but then suddenly looks off-putting.  But all in all, it is a musical. It has an amazing soundtrack, a delightful main lead, and a spectacular dance segments. If you’re a fan of musicals then this movie will not disappoint. This is the most fun I had watching Hugh Jackman and a group of misfits feared and criticized by bigots.


En complément:

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David Harris

David Harris has lived in Montreal his whole life. He thoroughly enjoys discussing most subjects including the arts, technology, and good food. He shows a great appreciation for good stories and dialogue, which suits his passions perfectly: television, movies, and graphic novels. But, deep down, he has to admit that his biggest love will always be with the movies and movie going experience.

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