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The Greatest Showman movie review: Bury your conscience and enjoy this groovy Hugh Jackman musical

The Greatest Showman movie review: Hugh Jackman brings a musical about famous 19th century American showman , PT Barnum with Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson.

movie reviews Updated: Dec 29, 2017 17:13 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Hugh Jackman is back in a musical with The Greatest Showman, something he has always loved.
Hugh Jackman is back in a musical with The Greatest Showman, something he has always loved.

The Greatest Showman
Director: Michael Gracey
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson
Rating: 3/5

Last year, Illumination Entertainment realised that a world of possibilities exists beyond rehashing Minion shorts and made Sing. The musical animated comedy had Matthew McConaughey play a broke music producer koala who is looking for talented anthropomorphic animals to launch a singing reality show. He finds a bunch of misfits who trust him with their future. He befriends them, trains them, and makes confident individuals out of them only to fail their trust for the greed of more. They eventually fall out but when a bunch of local thugs wreck their theatre and the manager koala loses all his money and hope, the trusted misfits propose they come together and perform again on a makeshift stage and win everyone’s hearts.

Because no one really cared about Sing in the first place, there was little hope a live-action version would ever get commissioned. But worry not you two dozen fans of Sing all over the world, Hugh Jackman and Michael Gracey have made one for you already: The Greatest Showman!

Jackman, always itching to put on his dancing shoes when the franchise-hungry world would rather have him put on his Adamantium claws, plays the koala... I mean real-life 19th century circus master and showman, PT Barnum. Freshly rendered unemployed, he decides it is just the right opportunity to buy a museum and make a circus out of it, gathering all the city’s freaks (dwarves, women with facial hair, tattooed guys, very tall guys, very fat guys) and putting them on display for a paying audience. For all you woke millennials, this is where you cringe in disgust.

But it’s all chill because he tells the dwarf the people will salute him, calls the hairy woman beautiful, gets excited about the man with the tattoos, is in awe of the tall person and cracks a joke with the fat one. See? He is all mush at heart. Like he said, “They will laugh at you anyway, might as well get paid for it.” So we trust him that exploitation is all okay as long as the exploited one is all okay with it and the one exploiting has the smile of Hugh Jackman *swoons and falls on a bed of ticket fare*.

And thus begins the all-singing, all-dancing fanfare that was promised in the trailers. The troupe swims past one obstacle after another with the help of Barnum’s wit and Jackman’s twinkling eyes. He hires an apprentice, played by musicals’ veteran, Zac Efron, luring him with a bromantic song and a lot of alcohol. Efron’s Phillip Carlyle falls in love with a trapeze artist, played by Zendaya, on his first day at work. Together, they make the circus a huge success, blow wind in the faces of highbrow critics, meet the Queen and more. All was well until Barnum realises he wants the best of both worlds: acceptance among the elite and still all the ‘money-getting’. Like the greedy koala, he too begins to lose the respect of his troupe and the love of his wife, played ever so gracefully by the brilliant Michelle Williams.

The Greatest Showman, as it ignores the more controversial, racist, opportunist ideals of its protagonist, paints an unbelievably scotch-free image of him with ecstatic song and dance numbers. Lyrics by La La Land’s Pasek and Paul and a stellar choreography help tremendously in elevating it above all culpability. The movie, much like La La Land itself, opens with a jovial, highly charged number by Jackman and a bunch of very talented dancers, hinting at what is to come. It is followed by a host of electric numbers, some soothing, visually stunning romantic ones, a few to lift broken spirits and one that leaves you sunken in your seat, wanting it to never stop playing. Dancers’ feet tapping on the hardwood floor, Michelle’s skirt swinging with the drying sheets on a roof top, Jackman promising a new beginning in a bar and Rebecca Ferguson leaving everyone spellbound as the famous Jenny Lind, all create a musical they could be proud of.

First time director Gracey, while did not have the best story to work with, does bring in the fireworks in terms of presentation. The gorgeous transition shots, the bright colours in the dull 19th century of black top hats and coats and most impressive of all, the way he shoots his songs like a dream sequence are all testimony of his past in the visual effects department. An excessive CGI elephant or two can be forgiven.

So it is ultimately up to you, if a singing, dancing Hugh Jackman in a Mean Girls remake (while ignoring the reality) is what you are in the mood for, The Greatest Showman might just be the right way to say goodbye to 2017.

Watch the trailer for The Greatest Showman:

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