Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.


For many, many reasons, The Greatest Showman really shouldn't work as well as it does.
A revisionist stab at history that rather unconvincingly casts exploitative huckster PT Barnum as a social justice warrior for the downtrodden outcasts of society (he's still very much a huckster but one that really cares about those that work in his circus and not just about the amount of money he can make from them). The 12 year age difference between Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams despite the fact their characters are supposed to be about the same age, plus the fact that someone somewhere thought the world needed another Baz Luhrmann, albeit a marginally more restrained version, with first time director Michael Gracey.

Despite all that I actually rather enjoyed this slice of overblown Hollywood fantasy.
The music, songs and choreography are incredibly persuasive, with several rousing and toe-tapping sequences. The modern pop-style songs aren't usually my cup of tea but La La Land lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have done a solid job (I've had 'This is Me' stuck in my head all afternoon and couldn't resist downloading the soundtrack as soon as I got home).

Hugh Jackman is on good form as Barnum, though Williams is a little wasted as his wife Charity Barnum. Zac Efron is likeable as Barnum's eventual business partner, Zendaya makes good on the promise shown in Spider-man Homecoming, Keala Settle brings dignity and a cracking singing voice to Lettie the bearded lady and Mission Impossible's Rebecca Ferguson is rather fine as the Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind (though ironically Lind's celebrated operatic soprano is supplied by The Voice US finalist Loren Allred).

I was fully prepared to resist the film's slightly dubious take on Barnum's life, but decent tunes, a solid cast and the fact that I'm a sucker for a big screen Hollywood musical makes this one to file under 'guilty pleasure'. Far from perfect for sure but fans of Moulin Rouge should find much to enjoy.

By Kevin Knapman

The Greatest Showman (PG)

1h 45m

Director: Michael Gracey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya

UK Release: Tuesday 26th December 2017

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