Keepin’ it Reel: “The Greatest Showman”

Michael Gracey’s new musical, “The Greatest Showman,” is both a literal and metaphorical crowd pleaser. On one hand, it’s a fantastic biopic about the life of P.T. Barnum, and tells the incredible story of the curious individuals he surrounded himself with in order to make both a living and a profit. On the other hand, “The Greatest Showman” also delivers with sleek visuals, expert-grade choreography, and a memorable soundtrack I have been playing for weeks now on repeat.

If you’re scratching your head as to who Gracey is, you’re completely justified. “The Greatest Showman” is the director’s debut feature. Honestly, it’s mind boggling. The film is incredibly directed with striking visuals that made my jaw drop numerous times while watching it. The production design is top notch. Whereas some musicals feel constrained due to their small budget, this film excels in that area. Each set in the film feels grand and visually pleasing, which perfectly contributes to the theme of success shown throughout the film. It’s extremely well directed, especially for a first-time director, and overall creates an experience worth seeing.

Since the film is a musical, it has to accomplish the difficult task of creating a narrative that works around musical talent. If this doesn’t work, the story typically becomes sloppily executed and the entire film could fail before it even begins. Thankfully, “The Greatest Showman” has one of the best original soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time, which helps to make the film a memorable experience. Each song is extremely catchy, and the powerful lyrics that accompany the tunes help contribute to the story playing out on the screen. It’s really no surprise, as the lyricists for this film also wrote the lyrics for the music featured in “La La Land,” which was my favorite film of last year.  In fact, the song “This is Me” from the film is nominated for “Best Original Song” at the 90th Academy Awards.

However, music is just one part of creating a musical. I’ve seen plenty of musicals with a solid soundtrack, yet a film can’t stand on music alone. Each performance in this film stands out, especially Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of P.T. Barnum. He’s charming, likable and every time you see him on screen, you can tell he’s having a blast playing this part. The energy and chemistry of the entire cast shines throughout the film. This helps the viewer care for essentially every character introduced.

The only real issue with “The Greatest Showman” is the script. You pretty much know what to expect with musicals these days, and you’re getting exactly that with this film. There are moments in this film that feel truly generic and might be a little difficult to sit through since we’ve seen similar plot points in other films before. If the film did not have the visuals, the music, or the performances that make it stand out, then “The Greatest Showman” would probably be an incredibly forgettable, dull experience. Thankfully, the film has all of these elements which really help it stand out in the crowd and leave a lasting impression.

From the moment it started, I knew I was in for something special, and as soon as the film ended, I wanted to immediately experience this film again. The film has some generic moments and a weaker script, but this is one case to where the classic phrase of “style over substance” makes an exception. It may not be for everyone, but “The Greatest Showman” overall is a visually pleasing film with phenomenal music. It deserves to take its bow when the credits roll. This is one show that’s worth buying a ticket for.