The Oscar Project Reviews
Just like the title suggests, this film is a great show piece, and while it attempts at finding a deeper meaning and message about acceptance and being oneself, the film ultimately falls a bit flat in telling the story of P. T. Barnum (P. T. Barnum) and his rise to circus fame.
Don't get me wrong, there are sequences in this film that look fantastic and the way things transition from one phase to the next is seamless. It's clear that the filmmakers took great pains to show the way Barnum's showmanship intersected with his personal life and vice versa. All of the typical circus sideshow oddities are there from the "bearded lady" to the "dog man" and everything in between. It was even a bit surprising that in the 21st century, these characters were treated as callously as they were at the beginning of the film, set up as being true oddities even though we have a much better understanding of the conditions that make people unique today.
The film shows a young Barnum working as a tailor's apprentice before meeting the girl of his dreams, the rich Charity Hallett (Michelle Williams). They marry and have two children before Barnum loses everything and opens his museum of wax figures in New York to dismal sales before eventually bringing in the "freak" performers. His willingness to employee these individuals is ridiculed by critics, but enjoyed by (most of) the public which eventually leads to bigger and bigger successes.
But despite all the spectacle, the film is terribly predictable. There are attempts at being profound and inspiring, but they are covered over with the music throughout, which often takes over scenes that feel like they should have a little more space to be quiet and breathe. The frenetic pace of the various performances and dance numbers make the 105 minute run-time feel stuffed full and forced.
That said, there are a few scenes where some brilliant acting shines through, specifically one very touching scene between Zendaya's trapeze artist Anne Wheeler and Zac Efron's Phillip Carlyle. Unfortunately, this only further exposes the problem plaguing the rest of the film by showing there can be quiet moments of reflection. Jackman's performance, while nothing extraordinary, is entertaining and fills the screen, proving who the true showman in this piece is.
6 out of 10
The Greatest Showman is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and on demand as well as streaming on Disney+.