There are some movies that just become an instant hit. Everyone seems to love them – they’re all over the TV, a sequel is confirmed within 10 minutes of the movie being released, and everyone seems to be raving about this amazing and miraculous new film. This is what happened with The Greatest Showman (TGS). What makes it worse, is that it was a musical: even the radio wasn’t safe.
Now, I’m not denying the appeal of TGS, nor am I saying that it is badly made. However, the entire movie didn’t strike me as something to be ridiculously excited about, and the hype that has surrounded it ever since has slowly chipped away at my tolerance of the movie, as well as my will to live.
On the surface, TGS is possibly one of the least likely movies to really annoy me. A lifelong fan of musicals and a teenage Glee obsessive, I was excited when the movie came out. It had catchy songs, loads of famous people, and what seemed like a really interesting storyline. Alas, I could not have been more wrong.
Leaving the cinema after hearing rave reviews and constant chatter about this movie, I felt deflated. Had I watched it wrong? Had I not noticed certain things other people had? The songs seemed boring and not as good as everyone was giving them credit for, and it all seemed overly saccharine and edited. Although I understand that this is usually the case with musicals, it just seemed like the mark was in sight, and it just ran straight past it.
Ultimately, I think one of the things that didn’t sit right with me was the storyline itself. It’s meant to be this inspirational tale of people embracing their differences…but the motive for Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman, more on that later) is purely profit. Had he come across as a genuinely nice man, rather than a greedy, cheating and manipulative bloke, I might have been more inclined to like the movie. Instead, I was left bewildered by the sentiment, and even more by the characters themselves.
Jackman, to most, is a god amongst men. I would (usually) be inclined to agree. In person, he’s funny, he’s kind, and just generally seems like a laugh to be around. In TGS he’s obnoxious, and blind to the fact that he has a wife quite a lot nicer and better than he ever could be. She’s angelic, and instead, he palms her off for someone who can sing a bit better than she can. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t sit right with me.
Yes, I am fully aware that the entire cast of this movie is supremely talented. Yet, after watching previous performances by the actors, I can safely say that this is not any of their best work. Jackman’s musical prowess peaked in Les Miserables – a movie that I now use to gauge musical performances across the spectrum. In comparison to his performance in that, P.T. Barnum is more at Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! level.
The same can be said about real life Hercules and all-around triple threat, Zac Efron. In TGS, Efron is only at about half of his musical potential. I can happily say that I believe Zac Efron was better in High School Musical than he was in TGS. It doesn’t have the drama, the same romantic tension as HSM – although I can safely say it is nowhere near as cheesy. Something just doesn’t quite sit right, and it seems as though they could have gotten someone – probably not with quite as big a name – to play the same part quite a lot better.
Now, one of the only saving graces of this movie for me is Zendaya’s performance. She is supremely talented and ridiculously versatile, and her character has the most depth. She actually displays emotion, rather than just relying on the tempo of the song she is singing to tell her how to feel. If Zendaya wasn’t in this movie, it would be even lower in my estimations.
As I said before, I am in no way saying that TGS is badly made or is a bad movie. It just strikes me as a supremely mediocre movie to have this much hype surrounding it. It’s predictable, and the emotion is only skin deep. The songs are catchy but are nowhere good enough to be played constantly on every single radio station. There are so many more film adaptations of musicals that are superior: Chicago, Hairspray, even Enchanted are way better watches than this movie, and receive nowhere near the amount of acclaim. To me, that seems like an injustice.
Part of me really wishes I saw what everyone else sees about this movie. I want to be able to hear the songs on the radio without wanting to turn it off, I want to be able to watch the film with my friends without wanting to fall asleep 10 minutes in. I really want to enjoy it, and I really did try. It just, as you can probably tell, is not my cup of tea.