The Greatest Showman, B-
Rated PG-13, 105 minutes
Until it permanently shut down earlier this year, the circus was known as "The greatest show on Earth." The peppy, original new musical "The Greatest Showman" tells the story of how American businessman P. T. Barnum started what eventually became the circus. The story is occasionally unfocused and lacks depth, but is helped by the energy of the music and a game cast, led by Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman.
American showman P. T. Barnum (Jackman) becomes the founder of the circus that became the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He struggles to maintain a balance of keeping the show going and a family man to his wife Charity (Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams) and his girls.
The entertaining "The Greatest Showman" is performed with zeal and is directed by Australian visual effects artist Michael Gracey in his feature film debut, with a screenplay co-written by Jenny Bicks and "Dreamgirls" Bill Condon. Unsurprisingly, the music, all written by Pasek & Paul, Oscar-winners last year for "La La Land," is the best part about the film, and it comes alive during those numbers, including the songs "Never Enough," "The Greatest Show" and "From Now On."
The film is less successful in the story, which is loosely based on Barnum's life and his exploits in getting the circus off the ground. The uneven subplots, including a romantic one with Disney star Zendaya and Zac Efron aren't fully explored, though both young actors perform their musical numbers well, including Efron, who, in case if you forgot, got his start with "High School Musical" and "Hairspray."
The rest of the game cast performs well, including Jackman, Efron and Zendaya; Williams is underused as Barnum's wife Charity, getting in only one brief song. Of the large supporting cast, there are two standouts: "The White Queen's" lovely Rebecca Ferguson as real-life opera singer Jenny Lind (another subplot that isn't quite fully developed), and Tony nominee Keala Settle, who memorably steals scenes and adds color as Lettie, or we know her, the bearded lady, with her best scenes coming in the film's best song, "This is Me."
Along with the music, the stellar costumes, set design and the handsome photography from "Atonement's" Seamus McGarvey add color and style to the film, and it would come as no surprise to see the film earn Oscar nominations for those and the music as I would enjoy seeing Settle performing "This is Me" on the Oscar telecast (the real question is, would she also wear the beard on the show?).
It isn't perfect and it could've done more, but "The Greatest Showman" is a serviceably fun musical and should please those who are in need of a movie musical.