In January, I had a two-movie day with a Michelle Williams theme. I went to see All the Money in the World and then learned that my husband's flight was delayed, so I had time to see The Greatest Showman. I'm not sure that I would have seen The Greatest Showman, except for it was the only movie starting at the time. I'm very leery of movie-musicals. However, I do like both Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams, plus the subject matter interested me.
PLOT- A biography/musical about the life of P.T. Barnum.
LIKE- I found a lot of fault with The Greatest Showman, but I can't fault the enthusiasm of the performers. This film has a lot of energy, in particular with the musical numbers. It features a strong ensemble cast. The sets and costumes are beautiful eye-candy. Overall, I was entertained.
DISLIKE- I don't know much about the life of P.T. Barnum, but even as I was watching The Greatest Showman, I could tell that the writers took great liberty with his life story. This is VERY Disney-fied, in worst possible sense. Heck, it's not even a Disney film! It's fluffy, family-friendly fare that on the surface seems to be dealing with deep-social issues, but really glosses over them.
In one scene, Barnum (Hugh Jackman) learns of the opportunity to take his performers to England to meet the queen. Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) a trapeze artist, asks if non-white performers would be allowed to go. This situation is quickly remedied, when Barnum decides to turn down the invitation, unless they can all go. They all go, meet the queen, and have a grand time. The real story is this did not happen. In reality, the only performer to go to England was Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey). I'm not sure if racism was the real reason the other performers didn't cross the Atlantic, but it would have made for a much deeper and more conflicted situation. Even if you take race out of the equation, it's a more conflicted situation if only one of the performers has been invited to go. The Greatest Showman is filled with these simple solutions, where conflict is shown in the most simplistic terms.
I'd have preferred The Greatest Showman to be a straight-up bio-pic, without the musical or family-friendly element. I realize this would mean that it would have been a completely different film, but it's disappointing that they took fascinating source material and created this mess. The songs were not memorable.
RECOMMEND- Depends. I really disliked it. It was especially difficult after watching All The Money in the World, which was one of the best films of the year. Although, I know many people who absolutely loved The Greatest Showman ( and those who hated it, it's a polarizing film!). I did recommend this to a friend who has a young daughter who happens to have a crush on Zak Efron, and I think my step-kids would have enjoyed it.