Thursday, March 08, 2018

'The Greatest Showman' Is a Wonderful Feel-Good Movie

Last year, after 146 years of operation, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed due to constantly poor attendance and high maintenance costs.  Ironically, it was the same year that a musical drama film about its founder (when it was still Barnum & Bailey Circus) P.T. Barnum was released.  Titled The Greatest Showman, it stars Hugh Jackman as Barnum, and has a cast that includes Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, and Rebecca Ferguson.  It follows Barnum’s rags-to-riches journey as he gathers the “freaks” ostracized by society to produce a revolutionary spectacle that captured the world’s imagination.

Now, the movie would like to imply that show business and the concept of the modern circus, as we know them, started with Barnum.  But since the movie is more of a fictionalized take on Barnum’s life story rather than a true biopic, I’m inclined to think that this isn’t necessarily valid.
The Greatest Showman is the kind of film that some may find shallow and garish due to the fact that it does have the prodding sense of being “factory-assembled” and manipulative.  But, for me, even if this is true, the question that matters is, “With its adherence to formula and use of manipulations, does it succeed in generating the necessary outcomes and inciting the necessary emotions to make the watch enjoyable and worthwhile?”  And my answer is, “Yes!”

The designed-to-stir musical numbers gave me goosebumps.  The predictable storyline managed to engage me.  The stock themes still moved me.  And regardless of its means in realizing these – whether that be dazzle over substance, cliché over innovation – the fact stands that it does realize these.

The Greatest Showman is 2017’s premier musical film, and I really think it’s a wonderful piece of cinema.  It may not be perfect, it may not be mindblowingly terrific, but it definitely succeeds in its venture to be a straight-up feel-good movie.  Heck, I substantially like it more than La La Land (2016’s premier musical film).

Miscellaneous musings:
  • You know what makes this movie more impressive?  This is the work of a first-time director – Michael Gracey – who has been a visual effects artist for all of his career in the entertainment industry prior this gig!  It’s a pretty solid debut.
  • After seeing this movie and its live performance during the Oscars, I now think “This Is Me” is a bit better than “Remember Me.”   Keala Settle should now be a household name in the same way Idina Menzel became a household name due to Frozen’s “Let It Go.”
  • At some point, Jeremy Jordan was part of the production of this film, as I saw a behind-the-scenes footage where he was in a rehearsal with Hugh Jackman and Keala Settle.  Why isn’t he in the movie?  Was he supposed to play Zac Efron’s character but was replaced since Efron is a more recognizable star?  If so, that’s a shame since Jeremy Jordan is one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard.  If you haven’t heard him sing beyond the Flash/Supergirl musical crossover, you better Youtube him.  You’ll be blown away.
  • Zendaya is stunning in this movie.  She was pretty in Spider-Man: Homecoming, in a rugged sort of way, but she’s way more gorgeous here.

No comments: