The Greatest Showman - This Reboot Of The Movie Musical Rocks
Dir: Michael Gracey
Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson
If La La Land was the post-modern reimaging of the Hollywood musical, then The Greatest Showman is said genre fully back and in your face, told in broad strokes, with big songs and equally large performances.
It begins quietly with what feels like a nod to Fosse, before erupting into a tune designed to invoke the world “show stopper” – even if it is in fact the opening number. This is the tale of Phineas T Barnum, the man said to have invented the very business of show, with his collection of bearded ladies, Siamese twins, trapeze artists, really tall fellahs and more – a circus no less that stormed the world. As its central figure, Hugh Jackman is in his element. A long time stalwart of musical theatre, here the incredibly personable former Wolverine, gets to display every inch of his charismatic charm. To say he carries the movie would be unfair to those around him, but it is fair to point out that without his central turn, Gracey’s movie would be whistling Dixie. And probably not in tune.
The movie sweeps though Barnum’s life and rise to success like a hurricane, its story telling as broad as its songs are big. It certainly knows how to take you along for the ride, allowing barely a moment to either breathe (audience) or develop fully rounded characters (film-makers.) But it works.
With their La La Oscar firmly in their collective back pocket, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul’s songs are all strong, though curiously none are all that memorable. They almost play as one, with little distinction, all winning whilst you’re watching, but we challenge you to be whistling any one of them on the way out, let alone a week later (let alone a year late in the way that City Of Dreams still has the power to haunt.) But they work in the moment, which is probably the best thing you can say about the film as a whole.
As strong and irresistible as Jackman is here, and as much as he very clearly leads this picture, mention must be made of a very solid supporting cast all round. In particular both Efron and Zendaya (who made such an impression in last summer’s Spidey re-think.) Efron – who has long proved himself no slouch in the all-singing, all-dancing, all-charisma stakes - has the distinction of appearing in the film’s two standout musical numbers – in terms of choreography alone (and his performance in particular,) one in a bar with Jackman, the other in the circus ring with Zendaya. They are the two musical moments which move away from the bombast of the rest of the score and are, subsequently, the film’s two finest musical numbers.
Come for Jackman, Stay for Efron and Zendaya. Don’t forget the peanuts! A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
(Oh, and check out James Corden's contribution below)
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