Telling the story of a budding businessman and entrepreneur, Hugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum and introduces us to a world of wonder and ambition.
Director: Michael Gracey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey
Run Time: 105 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
The Greatest Showman makes it clear right out of the gate that if you’re looking for a musical genre-changing outing like La La Land, you’ve come to the wrong place. What this is, instead, is a movie that unashamedly takes you on a journey through a dazzling – in more ways than one – world filled with hope, disappointment, redemption and a soundtrack guaranteed to stay in your head for days.
All that, though, would be nothing without a cast suitable enough to carry it, and first-time director Michael Gracey has done a hell of a job assembling a cast with quality to spare. Hugh Jackman, of course, heads up the bill, though he receives more-than-able support from Zac Efron, Zendaya and Keala Settle, among others. Gracey’s inexperience does occasionally show, but overall he does a very good job of keeping things moving at all times – very rarely has a film passed me by so quickly yet never lost my attention – and never letting the entertainment levels drop.
When he isn’t brandishing the adamantium claws as Wolverine, Jackman’s love is clearly musicals. One look at his glittering Hollywood CV will tell you that the Aussie loves a song, which makes his role here as Barnum perfect; indeed, Jackman takes this on with such verve and enthusiasm, it’s like this is the role he was born to play. It is a genuine delight watching him do his thing. His whole performance is infectious, in particular portraying Barnum’s blind optimism. An early scene with him and Efron is an absolute joy to behold, one of the best in the entire movie, and again backed up by a song that won’t leave you in a hurry.
Away from the lead, Efron puts forth his best performance in some time as Phillip Carlyle and is believable in his role. His budding romance with Zendaya’s Anne gives the movie a side plot to work with and leads us to an energetic trapeze setpiece that works well, though does test the boundaries of believable CGI work. Keala Settle is superb as the bearded lady Lettie, made the focal point of the band of ‘unique’ individuals assembled by Barnum, she becomes more likable as the movie goes on. You’ll find yourself more and more behind her, leading up to her show-stealing and roof-raising ‘This is Me’ rendition.
For a first-time director, Gracey is smart enough to let his ultra-talented cast lead the way and do what they do best – and in Jackman, there aren’t many better. The director keeps the plot moving, though always being careful not to whizz through scenes and lose their effect. And while the CGI could be better in some of the scenes, it never really detracts from the overall picture.
La La Land it may not be, but when The Greatest Showman is at its best, who cares? Guaranteed to raise smiles, lead to tapping toes and keep songs in your head for days after, this is a truly superb production.