East Penn Press

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review: ‘Showman’

Thursday, February 22, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“The Greatest Showman” puts on quite a show. It’s a movie made for Broadway.

While not billed as a movie musical per se, that’s indeed what “The Greatest Showman” is, thanks to the Oscar-winning (“City Of Stars”) song-lyricist team of “La La Land” (six Oscars, 2016) Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are Oscar-nominated, original song, “This Is Me,” from “The Greatest Showman,” among their 10 outstanding original songs in the movie.

From its opening scenes, “The Greatest Showman” is a nearly all-singing, all-dancing, old-fashioned movie musical.

To enjoy “The Greatest Showman,” it’s best to set aside that it’s based on the life of Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum (1810-1891), a United States showman (P. T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome), politician (Mayor of Bridgeport, Conn.), businessman (flower shows, beauty contests, dog shows, baby contests, Illustrated News weekly), philanthropist (Tufts University), author (“Art of Money Getting”), and perhaps the originator of “fake news” for his promotion of hoaxes. He founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1871. Ironically, “The Greatest Showman” was released in 2017, the year Barnum & Bailey folded up its tent and disappeared down the tracks of history.

“The Greatest Showman” creates an alternative universe of its own, propelled by a wonderful performance by Hugh Jackman, a showman in his own right (Oscar nominee, actor, “Les Misérables,” 2013; “The Wolverine,” 2013; “Logan,” 2017). Jackman is so rakish as a song and dance man, he can even make a rake like Barnum likeable.

Fine in supporting roles as triple threats: actors, singers and dancers are Zac Efron (“Hairspray,” 2007; TV’s “High School Movie,” 2006, 2007, 2008) as Phillip Carlyle, a playwright; Michelle Williams (Oscar nominee, supporting actress, “Manchester By The Sea,” 2017) as Barnum’s wife; Zendaya (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” 2017) as Anne, a circus acrobat, and Rebecca Ferguson (TV’s “The White Queen,” 2013) as opera singer Jenny Lind.

The screenplay by Jenny Bicks (screenplays, “Rio 2,” 2014; “What A Girl Wants,” 2003; TV’s “Sex And The City,” 1998-2004) and Bill Condon (Oscar, adapted screenplay, “Gods And Monsters,” 1999; director, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Parts 1, 2,” 2011, 2012), from a story by Bicks, has few compunctions about the depictions, care and feeding of elephants, or any other mammal, large or small. The movie, directed by Michael Gracey (feature film directorial debut; previous credits as a digital compositor) is chiefly interested in moving from one scene to the other to showcase the songs.

“The Greatest Showman” is visually impressive in the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (Oscar nominee, cinematography, “Anna Karenina,” 2013; “Atonement,” 2008), and dazzling in its choreography, stunts and production design by Nathan Crowley (Oscar nominee, production design, “Dunkirk,” 2018; “Interstellar,” 2015), art direction by Laura Ballinger (art direction, “Going In Style,” 2017), and costume design by Ellen Mirojnick (Primetime Emmy, costumes, “Behind The Candelabra,” 2013). See “The Greatest Showman” in movie theaters before it’s transformed into a Broadway musical at a ticket price you may not be able to afford.

“The Greatest Showman,” MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for thematic elements including a brawl; Biography, Drama, Musical; Run time: 1 hr., 45 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The term, humbug, as used in “The Greatest Showman,” is defined as “fraud.” It is popularly associated with the exclamation, “Bah, humbug,” by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Box Office, Feb. 9: “Black Panther” broke several records, opening at No. 1 with $192 million on the President’s Day weekend and expected to gross an estimated $218 million for the four-day weekend. 2. “Peter Rabbit” continued to hop around at No. 2 with $17. 3 million, $48.2 million, two weeks. 3. “Fifty Shades Freed” slid down three spots, $16.9 million, $76.1 million, two weeks. 4. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” again hung out at No. 4 with $7.9 million, $377.6 million, nine weeks. 5. “The 15:17 To Paris” tracked down two stops, $7.7 million, $25.4 million, two weeks. 6. “The Greatest Showman” (one Oscar nomination: original song) dropped out of the Top Five for the first time since its December opening, $5.1 million, $154.5 million, nine weeks. 7. “Early Man, $3.2 million, opening. 8. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” continued to run out of steam, running in place, $2.5 million, $54 million, four weeks. 9. “Winchester” continued to misfire, holding with $2.2 million, $21.9 million, three weeks. 10. “Samson” got its locks clipped, $2 million, opening.

Unreel, Feb. 23: “Annihilation,” R: Alex Garland directs Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, and Oscar Isaac in the Science-Fiction Thriller about a biologist on a secret expedition. “Beast of Burden,” R: Jesper Ganslandt directs Daniel Radcliffe, Grace Gummer, Pablo Schreiber, and Robert Wisdom in the Crime Thriller about a drug dealer delivering his illegal cargo in a small plane. “Game Night,” R: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein direct Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons, Jason Bateman, and Michael C. Hall in the Crime Mystery about friends who meet regularly for a game night who try to solve a murder mystery.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes