Out of sync: Rashid Irani reviews The Greatest Showman | movie reviews | Hindustan Times
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Out of sync: Rashid Irani reviews The Greatest Showman

You’ll probably enjoy the music in this biopic on PT Barnum (it’s from the same lyricists as La La Land), but don’t expect much of a plot.

movie reviews Updated: Dec 28, 2017 16:30 IST
Rashid Irani
Hugh Jackman plays PT Barnum, who started out as a freak show producer and grew to be a celebrity circus magnate.
Hugh Jackman plays PT Barnum, who started out as a freak show producer and grew to be a celebrity circus magnate.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN
  • Direction: Michael Gracey
  • Actors: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams
  • Rating: 2.5 / 5

This all-singing, all-swinging soap opera charts the rags-to-riches-to-dubious redemption story of the 19th-century show business impresario, PT Barnum (played by the ever-versatile Hugh Jackman).

From his humble beginnings as a freak show producer to his emergence as a celebrity circus magnate, The Greatest Showman traces the flashy hoopla of life under the Big Top.

The film is peppered with original songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Oscar-winning lyricist duo behind last year’s La La Land, but the pace is slow, especially at the start.

The film opens with clichéd scenes showing Barnum’s childhood of penury and his subsequent marriage to a woman (Michelle Williams) from a snooty family. Their domestic scenes are sappy to the point of exhaustion.

It’s only when he starts to showcase the outcasts of society — a bearded woman (Keala Settle), ‘General’ Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey) and a pair of Siamese twins — that the story starts to go somewhere.

The screenplay skims over the entrepreneur’s exploitation of ‘The Oddities’, instead focusing on the inter-racial romance between his business partner (Zac Efron) and a trapeze artist (Zendaya).

The screenplay skims over the entrepreneur’s exploitation of the core group he nicknamed ‘The Oddities’, preferring instead to focus on the inter-racial romance between his business partner (Zac Efron) and a trapeze artist (Zendaya).

There isn’t much of a plot. First-time feature filmmaker and former music-video whiz Michael Gracey seems content to merely herd a bunch of montage sequences together.

Thankfully, a couple of barnstorming melodies — chief among them, ‘This is me’, performed with great gusto by the Oddities troupe — do raise the roof.

Otherwise, for a biopic that purports to celebrate humanity in all its diversity, The Greatest Showman is surprisingly flat.