So I’ve finally seen it. After weeks of seeing it lauded as “Amazing” and “My New Favorite” on Facebook, I finally got the family together and we went to see The Greatest Showman.
Well first, can I just say that Hugh Jackman might be the closest thing we ever get to another Dick Van Dyke, only maybe better. He’s almost 50 years old and he is flat out amazing as a dancer. And he can sing. Quite well. But beyond that, name three other actors who can convincingly portray Jean Val Jean, Wolverine and P.T. Barnum without having the viewer constantly referring in their minds to his other roles. Lastly, the man is half way to an EGOT (he is a Tony and Emmy award winner) and he has been nominated for an Oscar. Dude is something!
And, I believe he picked this movie up and carried it on his back through any and all of its weaknesses.
What has been interesting about this movie is that critics, by and large, have been underwhelmed while audiences have almost unanimously loved it. At least that’s what the 90% positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes would suggest. The irony is of course that the movie is all about a man who creates a spectacle that is roundly dismissed by the elite and critical circles while the common man eats it up.
And just that quickly it is funny how allegorical this movie is both in its telling and in its reception from the public on so many levels that I will not address.
As the credits rolled, my initial reaction was…FANTASTIC!!! It was the same for each of my kids and for my wife. For the purposes of going to a movie, it hit all the right emotional spots. The last song we heard as we watched the credits was Rewrite the Stars and even now, 15 hours later, I am still humming that tune in my head.
However, for those who think this is the best movie ever, I must disagree. It is a great movie for what it is, but only when properly compared to movies of a similar construct. Bottom line, I believe The Greatest Showman is a better budgeted, better acted film in the vein of High School Musical. Now before everybody starts sending me hate messages and pooh emojis on my Facebook feed, understand this. I liked High School Musical. And get this: I liked High School Musical 2 even more. Admittedly, by the time High School Musical 3 came out, my daughter was no longer interested in the franchise and I never ended up seeing it, but the first two movies are really pretty good.
For what they are.
And by that I mean, are the songs in The Greatest Showman on par with the music written for Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera? No. BUT they are catchier. And I like listening to From Now On or This Is Me at loud volumes in my truck a whole lot more than Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.
As far as story goes, The Greatest Showman is not a complex story. And it also happens to be entirely untrue if you are looking at it from a true historical perspective.
But it is very uplifting and provides a positive moral that literally had the audience applauding when the credits began to roll last night. Caught up in the moment, I even applauded myself.
Unfortunately, I had to go and ruin it when I got home. I looked up the actual history of PT Barnum and it kind of dampened the movie for me. Particularly with regard to the character of Jenny Lind.
By all accounts, Jenny Lind was one of the most charitable and good people around. She was paid $350,000 (almost $10 million in today’s currency) for the tour she did with PT Barnum and donated the entire amount to fund Swedish schools. She did not just quit the tour, but actually broke her agreement with Barnum (which was her right per the contract they had both agreed upon) after 60 shows because she was uncomfortable with the way he was promoting her, but went on to perform 33 more shows without his involvement. There is no known history of a romantic connection between the two and to me that is the greatest weakness of this film. It’s a work of fiction that unfortunately disparages a real person, who by all accounts was a truly giving and good individual.
So, with that knowledge, I have decided that The Greatest Showman is a really good FICTIONAL movie that uses real characters while totally downplaying actual history. Which is fine. I’m not being critical. I mean, the Von Trapp children were Do Re Miing and yodeling in The Sound of Music all through the Nazi occupation of Austria, which by all accounts was not a “let’s all break into song” kind of moment in history. But it’s still a good movie. Mostly. Except for Friedrich. Man, I hate every second that kid is on screen. Ugh!
Sorry, I digress.
Bottom line, I’ve downloaded several songs from the soundtrack. We will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out and I can’t wait to see the Rewrite The Stars segment in high definition. I will (already have) change my opinion of both Zac Efron and Zendaya as actors. They were pretty good. And compared to their previous work, they are getting significantly better. I will be excited to see where they go from here.
Mostly though, I will try to internalize the message that was taught. It’s a good one. So good in fact, I will give a shout out to a friend of mine who stated in a Facebook post that while watching it, he couldn’t help thinking that these were the kind of values he wanted his kids exposed to. I agree. Wholeheartedly!
But I won’t be upset when it isn’t nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It shouldn’t be.
Now best Soundtrack? That may be a different story.