Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
Want more? Listen to our discussion of 'The Greatest Showman' on SWITCHCast
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
New SWITCHCast episode out now! Click here to listen to interviews with 'Rockabul's' Travis Beard and 'Thunder Road's' Jim Cummings.x
review, The Greatest Showman, The, Greatest, Showman, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Fredric Lehne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen Ii, Paul Sparks, Diahann Carroll, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Michael Gracey, Musical, True Story film rating

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

AN AGGRESSIVELY AWFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE

THEATRICAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Daniel Lammin
21st December 2017

Creating an original musical is hard. Creating one for the big screen is even harder. Hugh Jackman (‘Logan’, ‘Les Miserables’) has been pursuing one of his own since 2009 - a musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the nineteenth-century impresario who created the Barnum & Bailey Circus. After jumping plenty of roadblocks, the fruits of that passion project are here in ‘The Greatest Showman’, with Hugh Jackman at the centre as Barnum, and Oscar and Tony-winning song team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul providing the songs. Yet all those years to dream and prepare don’t quite result in the magic they may have hoped for.

The film follows Barnum from childhood, through poverty and hardship with his wife Charity (Michelle Williams, ‘Wonderstruck’, ‘Blue Valentine’) and two daughters, to his idea to found a museum of curiosities in New York. He assembles an ensemble of unusual persons with uncommon physical features, earning the attention, praise and scorn of the city. With producer Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron, ‘Baywatch’, ‘The Paperboy’) behind him, he works to make a name for himself and his "circus", and prove he’s more than his underprivileged background would suggest.

‘The Greatest Showman’ drives forward aggressively on its goodwill and enthusiasm, but none of this can save the film from itself as it basically self-implodes over an hour and forty-five minutes. There’s bad, and then there’s films like this - so spectacularly misjudged and mishandled that it ends up being a wonder to behold. Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon’s screenplay removes any of the interesting or controversial elements of Barnum’s story and instead concoct a fantasy about a Great White Saviour who, with ambition and imagination, singlehandedly solves issues of race, discrimination and social stigma in 1800s America, with a respectful and loving wife who, regardless of what he does, will always be there for him. We move from cliché to cliché like a train thundering over broken tracks, with no idea where it’s going or what it wants to say. Jackman is clearly going for major spectacle, with lavish sets and ‘Oliver’-sized crowds, but handing it to first-time director Michael Gracey is an enormous mistake. He simply cannot handle the demands of this film, from its scale to trying to solve the problematic screenplay. The film looks flat, the editing is choppy as hell, even with six editors, and for a film relying on music as a storytelling tool, has almost no consistent rhythm.

SWITCH: 'THE GREATEST SHOWMAN' TRAILER

Which brings us to the songs, perhaps the biggest misstep of all. Rather than going for a more classical musical approach, Pasek, Paul and Jackman have pushed for a more contemporary pop feel. The resulting songs are bad. Like… really bad. The lyrics are woeful, the melodies are without any personality or originality, and they serve almost no purpose in the story. It’s as if they were dropped from a height to splat with a thud on the screenplay without any attempt to make them work, inane and generic "hit single" pop songs rather than integral elements of the storytelling. I mean, these guys are the lyricists of ‘La La Land’ and composers of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, for fuck's sake. There’s almost no cohesion between the songs, the screenplay and the score, all working against one another with a grating inconsistency. In fact, the film is better when no one is singing. And then there’s the treatment of women, mostly relegated to plot points or objects to be possessed. When Charity finally gets a solo, the film spends more time cutting away to Barnum building on a potential infidelity than actually focusing on her and her agency.

The problem is, Barnum is a bit of a dick, a whiny social climber who switches between an everyman and an elitist at a moment's notice. Shockingly, Jackman delivers one of his worst performances, lacking in subtlety or detail. His performance is all wide-eyed, high emotion and sweating from extreme effort. He also lacks any charisma at all, exemplified when Zac Efron turns up and basically walks away with the film. Efron and Zendaya (‘Spiderman: Homecoming’), who plays trapeze artist Anne, have some lovely chemistry, but they’re only given time to show it in another dismal duet amongst many others. Williams tries her best, as does Rebecca Ferguson (‘Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation’) who plays an opera singer - who sings, you guessed it, a generic pop song - but they’re basically not given anything to work with. The ensemble that make up Barnum’s troupe are given a little bit of attention, but their unexplored stories would be far more interesting than this arrogant selfish twat who keeps using his young daughters as an excuse for his attempts to stroke his own ego.

There’s bad, and then there’s films like this, so spectacularly misjudged and mishandled that it ends up being a wonder to behold.

‘The Greatest Showman’ really is a sight to behold. Fellow SWITCH reviewer Chris and I spent a lot of it stifling laughs behind our hands and gasping at each unintentionally camp flourish. I wish I hadn’t been in public so I could more vocally react to it, so delicious was its mediocrity and incidental camp. Chris walked out beaming from the atrocity of its existence and I walked out with headache and a lot of questions (mostly, why?). This is a film of enormous ambition but no vision to guide it, an aggressively earnest film with no idea how to harness that energy. Creating an original musical is hard, but Jackman’s passion project is exactly how not to do it. It might be a cult classic in the making, but I very much doubt it. As Chris so eloquently put it afterwards, its the #instagay version of a musical - purely aesthetic, vapid, attention-seeking, and devoid of personality.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 26/12/2017
CAST: Hugh Jackman
Michelle Williams
Zac Efron
Zendaya
Rebecca Ferguson
Fredric Lehne
Yahya Abdul-Mateen Ii
Paul Sparks
Diahann Carroll
Natasha Liu Bordizzo
DIRECTOR: Michael Gracey
PRODUCER: Hugh Jackman
GreatestShowman
Want more? Listen to our discussion of 'The Greatest Showman' on SWITCHCast 
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion - An almighty family animation adventure
TRENDINGWIN ASTERIX: THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTIONAn almighty family animation adventure
Triple Threat - The world's biggest action stars combined
TRENDINGWIN TRIPLE THREATThe world's biggest action stars combined
NT Live: All About Eve - A powerful stage adaptation of a cinema classic
TRENDINGNT LIVE: ALL ABOUT EVEA powerful stage adaptation of a cinema classic
Aladdin - A whole new world of suffering
TRENDINGALADDINA whole new world of suffering
2040 - A hopeful look into our environmental future
TRENDING2040A hopeful look into our environmental future
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion - 60 years on, Asterix is as fresh as ever
TRENDINGASTERIX: THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTION60 years on, Asterix is as fresh as ever
Top End Wedding - Outback fantastic
TRENDINGTOP END WEDDINGOutback fantastic
Back of the Net - Misses the net, and then some
TRENDINGBACK OF THE NETMisses the net, and then some
Yuli - Dancing on a knife's edge
TRENDINGYULIDancing on a knife's edge
The Heiresses - An escape from the gilded cage of privilege
TRENDINGTHE HEIRESSESAn escape from the gilded cage of privilege
Undermined: Tales from the Kimberley - Asks urgent questions that demand answers
TRENDINGUNDERMINED: TALES FROM THE KIMBERLEYAsks urgent questions that demand answers
River's Edge - The kids aren't alright
TRENDINGRIVER'S EDGEThe kids aren't alright
My Big Gay Italian Wedding - A ridiculously fun love story
TRENDINGMY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDINGA ridiculously fun love story
Buffy - A 20th anniversary love letter
TRENDINGBUFFYA 20th anniversary love letter
In Fabric - The best worst film ever?
TRENDINGIN FABRICThe best worst film ever?
Alien - Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece screams on 4K
TRENDINGALIENRidley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece screams on 4K
Rockabul - Changing minds through music
TRENDINGROCKABULChanging minds through music
Pulse - An ambitious Australian body swap story
TRENDINGPULSEAn ambitious Australian body swap story
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders - Your new playmates
TRENDINGJACK LADDER & THE DREAMLANDERSYour new playmates
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us