It’s only February, but we’re already calling it: The Greatest Showman is the best musical film of 2018. The Greatest Showman, originally released in the United States last December 2017 and locally last January 31, has all the elements of a good musical—a great cast, a catchy soundtrack, and visuals that will keep you enthralled throughout its 1 hour and 45 minute run time.
The Greatest Showman is based on the incredible life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the popular proprietor of the Barnum & Bailey Circus and peddler of famous acts such as General Tom Thumb, Chang and Eng (who popularized the term Siamese Twins), and Jumbo the elephant. It's worth noting, though, that the film took a very liberal approach to the telling of P.T. Barnum’s story but you do not watch The Greatest Showman to be educated, you watch it to be entertained, and it accomplishes that superbly.
The opening sequence serves as a preview of things to come as we see the ensemble of Barnum’s “freaks” for the first time. Just a few seconds into the movie, Hugh Jackman already shows how deserving he is to be the ringleader of the show and proves (once again) that he is not just compelling as Wolverine. Michelle Williams, who plays Barnum’s wife, Charity, is as reliable as ever. Zac Efron and Zendaya continue the tradition of mainstream stars emerging from Disney’s more kid-oriented programs. Keala Settle, who played the bearded lady, was a revelation as she shined in the number “This is Me.” The rest of the cast were also top notch, as even the unnamed bartenders in the duet of Efron and Jackman almost threatened to steal that particular scene.
A musical, though, has to have a solid core of songs to make it good. As such, the songwriting duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen, Edge) were called upon to create original songs for The Greatest Showman and they delivered one of the best motion picture soundtracks in recent memory. The aforementioned “This is Me” has already won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and is also nominated for an Oscar. Fortunately, the entire cast, with the exception of Rebecca Ferguson who used Loren Allred’s (The Voice Season 3) singing voice, was up to the task of interpreting the songs. But the The Greatest Showman was not only a spectacle of the auditory kind, it was also a visual feast from start to finish. The dancing, the stunts, even the computer generated scenes—all were impeccable and contributed to the overall feeling of magic that the movie so easily delivers.
Overall, The Great Showman is definitely a satisfying watch and we’d go as far as calling it a modern classic. Showman trumps last year’s favorite, La La Land, in terms of visual and aural artistry. The fact that the Academy Awards decided to exclude this movie, and Jackman in particular, in its list of nominees is such a shame. The Greatest Showman definitely lives up to its name and, as long as you don’t expect a factual biopic about Barnum, is one of the most refreshing and masterfully done movie musicals you’ll have the pleasure of seeing.