After the terrible personal disappointment that La La Land was, I was REALLY hoping the state of modern musicals was going to get better with The Greatest Showman.  We all know Hugh Jackman can sing, right?  Because he can, and he’s amazing.  The problem with him in this particular film is the post processing on his singing.

Simply put, The Greatest Showman was a lot of attempted heart with very little true emotional payout.

Based on the life of PT Barnum, the man who brought the circus to life in America during the 1800s, The Greatest Showman attempts to bridge a Moulin Rouge style Baz Luhrmann fever dream of costumes and staging with the lyrics and ‘sensibilities’ of the aforementioned La La Land.  Considering the same team did music and lyrics, it’s not surprising that much of my issue with the tunes is pretty similar to my complaints from last year.

The Greatest Showman (2017)
Zac Efron, Zendaya

Not surprisingly, Zendaya is the best performance of the lot, even though she’s given a pretty predictable storyline.  She and Zac Efron are…mismatched really, but his turn in the film is fine.  Fine, I guess is the term I’d use for the entire thing?

The songs are too long, the film really doesn’t know if it wants to be super melodramatic or dreamy romantic. The costumes don’t fit.  They really don’t. Yes, they’re circus performers and that means they can have crazy outfits and colors, but it’s still being presented as a period piece, right?

SCORE: 1.5 out of 5, viewed in standard non 3d, no plans to see again

The Good:

I keep trying to find something positive here, and I guess I’ll go with the obvious- the main theme for the film is “everyone has a family” and “you don’t have to fit in to FIT IN”.  A truly admirable sentiment, but one that gets shoehorned in without really flushing the plot out.

The Bad:

It shouldn’t be this hard to get a ‘modern’ musical into a large scale film.  It REALLY shouldn’t.  I say modern, because there have been very few NEW entries into the genre in the last oh say 5 years.  Original work even less so.  As much as I personally can’t stand La La Land or The Greatest Showman, I will nevertheless applaud the tenacity of the teams who made them.  That said, I will not forgive over-processed vocal performances with talent of this caliber.

There is this video from the production, right after Jackman had his skin cancer operation.  His voice in it, during a time he was NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SINGING under medical advisement, sounds better than all of the film:

Give me a bare bones rehearsal hall of these folks practicing and I’m as happy as a clam.  Sometimes the trappings of cinema diminish what’s really there.

The Greatest Showman opens in theaters on December 20th, 2017.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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