I saw ‘The Greatest Showman’ at a sold-out matinee show and right as the credits rolled, most of the audience started clapping vigorously. I thought to myself, did we just see the same film? Because in my opinion, this film is a bloated piece of mess.
Never mind the fact that the film glosses over any objectivity regarding the life of P.T. Barnum. I know that I have read numerous pieces about him being a monster – literally buying and selling ‘freak talent’ for his shows. The screenplay, by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon (seriously, Bill Condon wrote this crap?) glosses over everything and we get to see a very bland story of someone starting a circus. There isn’t any depth to the narrative, the only conflict we get is a fire in his circus and his wife leaving him as he embarks on an affair with an opera singer (Rebecca Ferguson) We get zero sense of the man. Even as Hugh Jackman tries to make him a human, the result is that we get a robot who recites lines, and well, at least he sings and dances well. Jackman is the consummate showman, of course, but is given some of the most generic, could-be-about-anything songs devoid of any character, or tune, really. They all blend into one whole limp song.
Sure, Seamus McGarvey’s choreography gives the scenes a little lift, but every number is arranged so tightly that the performers don’t have any room to breathe. Zac Efron is fine enough in a nothing role, and Zendaya’s role could have been played by anyone, and probably better by any gypsy on Broadway. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I kind of expected a little more from all these people, and now I think they probably should have done a film version of Cy Coleman’s ‘Barnum.’ I know I should be grateful that they are doing musicals, and people seem to be enjoying this (to be fair, the audience scoring is pretty high) but I consider this to be one of the worst films of the year – more because of great expectations than anything else.