You know me, I’m a sucker for a good musical. So a new musical film with music from the guys who did La La Land and starring Hugh Jackman? Count me in.
For the uninitiated, this is the musical biopic of P.T. Barnum famous Showman and circus extraordinaire, I suspect it’s a highly romanticised version of events, as most biopics are but that hardly matters if the film is up to scratch, without further adieu, roll up, roll up and see this review (sorry, couldn’t resist.)
P.T. Barnum is a down on his luck, recently unemployed shipping clerk, who dreams big. He risks all he has to put smiles on faces and deliver the best show, to do this he assembles a ragtag bunch of misfits and makes them stars. But will he learn when a risk is too much?
The first striking thing about this movie is it’s startling choreography. From the opening song and dance to the end credits, it looks absolutely stunning as these big dance routines take place on screen.
To that end, there’s the music, which is one of the most hyped things about the movie, when it delivers, it delivers big time, there’s a fair few corkers in there. From the opening song (‘The Greatest Show’) to it’s incredibly well-sung final song (‘From Now On’) and in the middle a big, powerful anthem for all those who’ve been downtrodden in their lives (‘This Is Me’). I feel there’s definitely an Oscar winning song in there somewhere.
As stated near the start of this piece, I get the feeling that this is a somewhat watered-down version of events, as it zips along at a very fast speed, giving the positive of never lagging pace-wise, and a negative of potentially neglecting developing characters. For the most part it strikes a happy middle ground, but there are a few anaemic character moments that feel slightly false.
Amazingly, this is Michael Gracey’s (the director) first feature film, which seems even more amazing when you watch the film and see how effortlessly he directs the film, from the big group circus scenes, to the intimate scenes later in the movie, it bears the hallmarks of a director of significantly more experience.
The cast also slips effortlessly into their characters, Hugh Jackman is characteristically brilliant in his portrayal of Barnum, from the lows of unemployment to the dizzying heights of his successes, while also carrying his load of intricately choreographed song-and-dance routines. Other stand-outs from the cast include Zac Efron, who has come a long way from his High School Musical days, fellow Disney alumni Zendaya also impresses, making that twice this year she has impressed me on screen (the other time being Spider-Man: Homecoming) and last, but not least Keala Settle who plays Letty Lutz, the bearded lady, who has a particularly impressive singing voice and acting range.
In short, this is a very enjoyable piece of musical Hollywood. It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of La La Land, but it’s stand-out choreography and memorable soundtrack makes it a very enjoyable experience.