“The Greatest Showman” means well but fails to deliver

The Greatest Showman” was released in American theaters on Dec. 8 to large crowds and mixed critical reception. Photo by IMDB

Hope Schreiner

Going into a movie with high expectations is a dangerous thing. Sometimes it pays off, but other times you may leave the theater utterly disappointed. Despite an impressive cast and exciting theme, “The Greatest Showman” still falls short of the mark in more ways than one.

“The Greatest Showman” stars everyone’s favorite Australian, Hugh Jackman, as Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum, an American showman who was raised in poverty but became wealthy when he created Barnum’s Circus. Loosely based on his life, this film paints Barnum in a more negative light while maintaining an oddly positive and upbeat tone overall.

The pacing in this film feels far too rushed. Within the first five minutes, Barnum goes straight from childhood into adulthood, which brushes over significant life changes and leaves many gaps that the viewer has to attempt to fill in. If these gaps were filled in, it may have been easier to empathize with Barnum a bit more. The opening musical number feels a few minutes too long, and there are a few too many reprises of it.

The biggest problem with this film is that the content doesn’t match the tone in the least bit. The songs are upbeat and the colors are bright, but the storyline is bleak, and Barnum is a twisted and self-centered man in more ways than one. For example, he acquires a fraudulent loan in order to start up his museum, which later, inspired by his daughters’ suggestions, becomes his circus.

It also doesn’t seem as if Barnum has a motive for creating this circus outside of the fact that he needs the money so that he and his family can live a wealthy lifestyle. He uses these unique individuals to his advantage by exploiting their flaws and insecurities for money. Sure, they need the money just as much as he does, but this is not the right way to go about it.

Also,Barnum Doesn’t have a genuine or intimate connection with any of the circus people. He redeems himself a bit in the end, but not enough to feel the emotion that was undoubtedly intended by the filmmakers. These performers risk everything by joining his circus, and they face many cruel people, whereas Barnum seems to get everything handed to him fairly easily with very few hiccups along the way. The film would have been far more enjoyable and emotionally stimulating if the circus people had been the main focus rather than Barnum.

With that being said, whenever the plot is focused on the circus people, it is easy to see how this film could be seen as a celebration of humanity. Through Catchy lyrics and upbeat melodies, the performers learn how to accept themselves for who they are, imperfections and all. They come together as a family to overcome their insecurities and defy what society thinks of them.

The soundtrack of this movie had a lot of hype surrounding it because it shares composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul With the 2016 award-winning musical movie, “La La Land.” However,there are only a few songs from this soundtrack that stand out and live up to “La La Land” standards. Although the movie is set in the late 19th century, the songs have a modern,popbeat and melody, which doesn’t particularly fit the tone of the film as a whole.

While it is easy to get lost in the infectious music and dance numbers and feel inspired by the overall plot, it is difficult to ignore the distasteful real-life history of the circus and Barnum’s own less-than-pleasant personal life. The overall themes of being yourself and following your dreams just barely peek out from behind the curtain. Although Hugh Jackman’s acting is superband the rest of the cast’s vocals are smooth,these things are not enough for this film to live up to the musical movies that preceded it.