Review of The Greatest Showman
Before Hugh Jackman was an X-Man, he was an award-winning stage-musical star, and his hearty, matinee-idol aura has never faded. Even when he was beating up supervillains as Wolverine, he looked as if he’d prefer to put his hands on his hips, rest one foot up on a tree stump, and belt out a chorus of Oklahoma. On screen, he’s had a couple of chances to show off his musical chops, as an animated penguin in Happy Feet and as not-so-animated Valjean in Les Miserables. But his feel-good new film, The Greatest Showman, is where he truly gets to unleash his inner trouper, and he barely stops singing, dancing and flicking around a top hat from beginning to end.
Speaking of “Rewrite the Stars,” the Greatest Showman has some of the best choreography that I have personally seen in any movie. Particularly in this scene, seemingly ill-fated Phillip Carlyle (Efron) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) showcase a beautiful dance number in which acrobatics are involved and the two cannot seem to decide if they want each other or must keep their distance. This whole scene just reveals love and emotion through the dance and song. You are not able to look away, as they fly through the air and tempt you to believe they are inches away from a kiss. Another really amazing thing about the dance numbers are they are very satisfying to watch. The beat matches up with the dance moves, and it is hard to convince yourself that you should not dance in a theater full of people. This is the case for the song “From Now On.” We see Barnum’s change of heart within this number, but the main thing is the fact that people within the movie that have yet to show off, get to showcase their dancing abilities. This gets you all hyped up, and their movement has such rhythm to it, you end up stomping your legs and tapping your arm rests. One of the characters (Radu Spinghel’s O’Clancy) beats his fists up against the ceiling in time with the bass. It is a moment that catches your attention and holds it. This is also true for the dance number between Efron, Jackman and their very attentive bartender. They all three sync up so well that every scarf toss and glass slide hits every corresponding note. The intensity of scenes is revved up by the insane notice to movement details. Every time a dance number began, you could not help but get excited. The actors and dancers gave it their all. The acting by the entire cast was phenomenal. There are so many emotional scenes within this movie that it is hard not to get invested. The actors make it easy to lose yourself within the story. You believe in their hope and their pain. The acting makes you believe the characters’ stories are unfolding right before you. I had high hopes for Jackman, Efron, Zendaya and Williams going into this movie. However, I was pleasantly blown away by the children actors and all the other supporting characters. Settle’s Lettie broke my heart, but empowered me to be brave. W.D. Wheeler (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) made me believe that the sibling love between him and Zendaya was real. Sam Humphrey’s interpretation of Tom Thumb was sassy and had me cheering for him throughout the movie. All of them had me invested in their story lines and their relationships. They all fit so well together. This movie resurrected my love of movies. I had become disappointed with the humdrum of sequels, remakes and just downright awful motion pictures over the past couple of months. The Greatest Showman is unique, original and something I could watch repeatedly and never tire of it. I give this movie a 10/10 rating on the Alena scale of movie magic. You should not only see it once, but as many times as you can.
In conclusion, the timing of this release is interesting. On May 21, 2017, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus folded up its tent for good, after 146 years of uninterrupted operation. Rocked by controversy due to criticisms of exploitation and animal abuse, they retired the elephant acts in 2016, but it was too late. Barnum was dogged by criticisms from the beginning. Many of the "acts" were fakes. Barnum actually didn't say the quote most associated with him ("There's a sucker born every minute") but he might as well have said it and his critics despised him for the assumption about popular entertainment and the regular folk who enjoy it. But in the film, Barnum, with a dazzling smile, explains to a skeptical journalist, "People come to my show for the pleasure of being hoodwinked." I was hoodwinked by "The Greatest Showman." And it was indeed a pleasure. Ringling Brothers may have closed up shop, but Barnum lives on.