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Vault Movie Review: "The Greatest Showman"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Greatest Showman

Theatrical Release: 12/20/2017

Theatrical Release: 12/20/2017

Synopsis

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is trying to provide for his family. He came from nothing, with his father being a humble tailor, but he ended up marrying his childhood crush, a woman who came from great wealth. Wanting to provide for his wife and two young girls, P.T. Barnum becomes desperate after losing his job. That is when he has a peculiar idea.

P.T. Barnum decides to open a museum for unusual people, and from there the idea of the circus is born. The circus has a rocky start, but his first show is not the end of P.T. Barnum's dream. While his show has had some amount of success, it has also received a lot of backlash, and now that he has had a taste of success, he sets his sights higher. He keeps coming back to his goal of providing for his family, but every time he reaches greater success he aims higher and the risk of losing it all becomes greater.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Songs & The Costumes (+8pts)

Some Special Effects (-2pts)

P.T. Barnum & The Circus (+6pts)

Charity Barnum & Jenny Lind (-3pts)

The Familial Bond (+3pts)

The Romance (-3pts)

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Pro: The Songs & The Costumes (+8pts)

The songs in this movie were not the kind of songs that you will be singing in your head very long after the movie is over. That being said, they were lively and were accompanied by energetic performances that kept me engaged. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who does not normally like musicals, because I find characters randomly breaking into song during dramatic moments to be silly. However, I thought it worked for this movie, and that was largely due to the facts that the vocal performances were always good, and both the songs and dances were entertaining.

Then there were the costumes, which were full of bright colors. The costumes were so effective, because it made sense in the context of a circus, but they were also effective as they made each character stand out from one another. Each character had a unique style, and a unique presence, so it made the ensemble sequences work really well. You know that they are each part of the whole, and you care about the whole, so it makes you care about the parts of that whole, even if you do not know much about them. The filmmakers used bright colors and unique costumes to help give each character somewhat of an identity, without having to spend time giving each one of them a drawn out origin, and I thought that strategy worked really well.

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Con: Some Special Effects (-2pts)

While most of this movie was visually satisfying due to all the colorful costumes, sets, and characters, some of the costumes in this movie were outright laughable. First there was the tattooed guy, who was supposedly tattooed all over his body, but then you see him later with his shirt off, and it is very clearly a muscle suit with tattoos all over it. It looked like the sort of cheap costume you would get at Walmart on the morning of October 31st. Then there was the bearded lady whose beard was a pretty major part of her character, and the character was a pretty major part of the story. However, the beard looked as fake as fake beards can look. These things were not deal breakers for me, by any stretch of the imagination, but they were noteworthy and momentarily took me out of the movie every time I saw them.

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Pro: P.T. Barnum & The Circus (+6pts)

In a world filled with origin stories, the origin of P.T. Barnum and the circus is not one that I expected to enjoy as much as I did. The character story of P.T. Barnum worked, as I was totally invested in his motives of trying to provide for his family, I was totally invested in the spark that was the circus, and I was invested in watching that idea come to fruition. The filmmakers lost me a bit when it came to his storyline with Jenny Lind, but I will get into that later. Hugh Jackman gave the character plenty of passion, plenty of heart, and it was easy to relate to and root for the guy as a result of that. I was invested in watching him achieve his dream, and I thought it was fun to see this almost certainly fictional origin for the circus. I am sure this was not how things actually played out in real-life, but it was still fun to see it unfold on screen.

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Con: Charity Barnum & Jenny Lind (-3pts)

The whole storyline regarding P.T. Barnum’s shifting goals—once he met Jenny Lind—was really predictable. As soon as Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) was introduced, I knew how the storyline between her, Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams), and P.T. Barnum would go. Then as soon as the members of the circus tried to join the party, I knew how that storyline would go as well. It was not a huge deal, since the rest of what was going on was able to keep me engaged anyway, but these storylines were pretty darn predictable. Do not get me wrong, it did not ruin the movie for me, but I definitely lost some interest in what was happening, as it felt like I had already seen it before.

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Pro: The Familial Bond (+3pts)

The familial bond between the members of the circus gave this group some heart. They all had felt like outcasts their entire lives, so when they came together to form the circus, they felt like it was the family they always wanted. These characters were all side characters, as P.T. Barnum's story took center stage, but the way the filmmakers set some of these characters up was done in a way that made it really easy to sympathize with them. It made their familial bond feel real, because I knew where they came from, and I knew what they had with the other members of the circus. It was not a complex or overly compelling group of characters, but their story was as effective as it was simple, as their drive to hold on to P.T. Barnum's circus was easy to connect with and it made P.T. Barnum's circus feel a lot more important than it would have been if these characters were simply kept in the background. The filmmakers made us care about the fates of these characters, which meant they also made us care about the fate of P.T. Barnum's circus—at least more so than just wanting to see the main character succeed.

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Con: The Romance (-3pts)

While I thought Zac Efron and Zendaya had decent chemistry with one another, I thought their romance together felt really forced. It was that classic trope of male character meets female character, so they fall in love. There was some drama in this story that could have been interesting if it was developed further, regarding who Zendaya's character was and what that meant to Zac Efron's character. Unfortunately, the filmmakers did not really dive deep into this story. They told this story, but it all felt hollow, as we never really got to see these characters' inner struggles or any real emotional weight. There was a little bit of it in there, but the filmmakers progressed through this story so quickly, that it felt like they were just going through the motions with it. I like these two actors, and I thought their characters had potential, but the way the filmmakers executed their story made it feel like the hollow shell of what it could have been.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (84pts)

The Greatest Showman was one of those movies that looked decent, but it kept escaping me for years. It was one of those movies that was one of the options when picking something to watch, but other movies always ended up beating it out. Fast forward to this past weekend, and it finally came time to watch this movie. While I am not normally a fan of musicals, because the concept of breaking out into song is one that takes me out of the movie, I thought this was a decent one. The songs were nothing incredible, but the musical numbers were entertaining, both due to the dance sequences and the songs themselves.

What I also enjoyed about this movie was that it had a decent story. The origin of P.T. Barnum and the circus was one that I was surprisingly into. Then there were the assortment of characters that made up the circus, who had a familial bond together that made it really easy to sympathize with the whole group. The movie had its issues—such as the storyline between P.T. Barnum, Charity Barnum, and Jenny Lind was boringly predictable, and the romance between Zac Efron and Zendaya's characters felt really forced. Fortunately, the music, the costumes, and the overall story were enough for me to have a pretty decent time watching this movie despite the issues I had with it.