Quick Hit: Flashy and vibrant and full of life, but falters in the final execution.
This is definitely one of those movies that our readers are going to get hit with an initial impression that may change. That’s because if this movie is anything, it’s extremely overwhelming and entertaining visually. Repeated viewings may not hold up just because the characters are painted very simply, with little to hold them up. But the movie doesn’t seem interested in presenting P.T. Barnum as a character so much as an architect of a movement.
Hugh Jackman has been attempting to get this movie made for years. After his musical turn in the film version of Les Miserables, he has been forthcoming about his willingness to star in another musical. He stars as P.T. Barnum, the first real purveyor of the circus. The movie gives him a quick rags to riches story drenched in some love and light, but not before it takes time to introduce us to his slightly below-board ways. Right from the start it’s evident just how much Jackman is enjoying himself in the musical scenes. He has a solid singer, and the choreography (which I’ll highlight in a moment) he excels at as well. It’s nice to see Jackman as a character who is happier and livelier.
What’s unfortunate is that there is so little going on around him. Most of the other characters have very little known about them besides either A) they don’t fit in or B) they love/hate Barnum. It’s a little disappointing because there are a lot of scenes featuring characters like the Bearded Lady, or Barnum’s wife Charity (played by Michelle Williams from Manchester By The Sea). Even Zac Efron, who comes into the film around the halfway point as a wealthy understudy and eventual ringmaster, comes across as shallow. The love affair with acrobat (played by Zendaya, or the new MJ from Spiderman: Homecoming) isn’t fully fleshed out, and that’s evident in their scenes together.
However, many of these flaws are covered up by the extreme dedication to the musical aspects of it. Showman plays as a bit of a Moulin Rouge in that it is constantly full of motion and song. The lyricists from La La Land, Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, fill the songs with longing and a willingness to be true to yourself (wouldn’t surprise me at all if the two were fans of Miss Lady Gaga). The choreography is a visual spectacle, and some of the best scenes aren’t even the large scale productions – though those are really good – but the smaller ones, in particular a scene featuring Jackman and Efron in a bar. These are wonderful scenes that liken back to huge musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, and you can’t help but feel elated to have them back on the big screen.
Inevitably, Showman will be criticized by certain critics (rightfully so) and will therefore garner lower scores. But I think that most audiences will come out of this movie enjoying themselves nearly as much as Jackman. I know I did, and it’s a film that I haven’t quite been able to get out of my head since I saw it nearly two weeks ago. I’m refraining from giving it as high of a score as I originally thought I would, after days of reflection, but I’m still giving it a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"