Cert PG 104mins Stars 3
Roll up to get your tickets for this enjoyably exuberant period musical based on the life of circus impresario, P. T. Barnum.
Absurdly sentimental and generous in its portrayal of the self-styled greatest showman, it’s an all singing and dancing rags to riches tale which despite the presence of a glamorous trapeze artiste, never really flies.
It’s greatest strength is in the casting of Hugh Jackman as Barnum, and he fizzles with old school razzle dazzle in a role which maximises talents.
With his experience of performing in London’s West End in shows such as Oklahoma! there isn’t a movie star today better equipped to play the part, and the likeable Aussie actor seizes the opportunity to unleash a full beam performance.
As Barnum’s business partner, Zac Efron harnesses his High School Musical pedigree to decent effect. He’s romantically paired with popstar Zendaya, who builds on her impressive acting turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Dreaming big to please his wife and daughters, Barnum puts on stage a collection of differently bodied people, who are variously large, small, hairy or conjoined.
But his hard won success is threatened when his head is turned by Rebecca Ferguson’s sexy Swedish songbird.
This is a Disneyfied vision of Barnum’s life, written by Bill Condon who directed this year’s monster smash, Beauty and the Beast. He creates a highly stylised world where the the circus seems more real than the outside world.
A virtue is made of his extravagant salesmanship techniques and his financial shenanigans and exploitative tendencies are glossed over.
But it’s heart is the right place, emphasising equality, celebrating diversity and defending the rights of anybody to burst into song at the drop of a top hat.
The Greatest Showman succeeds in offering colourful easy going entertainment for a couple of hours. Which from the little we learn of him, I imagine the real Barnum would heartily approve.