Rating: PG
Length: 104 mins
Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Zac Efron

Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.


“THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a good old-fashioned wholesome PG musical that is also a scintillatingly flashy — and woke! — immersion in up-to-the-minute razzmatazz. It takes the life of P.T. Barnum, the anything-goes circus impresario of the 1800s, who is played with irresistible effervescence by Hugh Jackman, and turns him into a saintly huckster-maestro who invented the spirit of modern showbiz by daring to follow his dream. At the same time, the film takes Barnum’s infamous believe-it-or-not attractions — Tom Thumb, Dog Boy, Tattoo Man, the Bearded Lady — and makes them over into sensitive enlightened outcasts, a kind of 19th-century freak-show gallery of identity politics.

How piously anachronistic is that? Very. Yet “The Greatest Showman” wants to give you a splashy good time, and does, and it’s got something that takes you by surprise: a genuine romantic spirit. The numbers are shot like electromagnetic dance-pop music videos, and to say that they sizzle with energy wouldn’t do them justice — they’re like a hypodermic shot of joy to the heart. You know you’re watching conventional chorus-line-with-a-beat flimflam, all decorating a bit of a tall tale, but that’s the ultra Hollywood pleasure of “The Greatest Showman.” It’s a biopic that forges its own uplifting mythology, and if you think back on it when it’s over and feel, maybe just a little bit, like you’ve been had — well, that’s part of its sleight-of-hand charm. P.T. Barnum would have been suckered by it, and would have approved.

The movie, shot with richly lacquered pizzazz by Seamus McGarvey, opens with a spectacular shot of Jackman’s Barnum, silhouetted under the rafters in his signature long coat and top hat, looking like as pure a creature of theatrical bravado as the M.C. in “Cabaret.” And though “The Greatest Showman” offers a much more family-friendly vision (this is a film about the sleazy bottom rungs of the entertainment world that you could easily take young children to), it conjures the spirit of Bob Fosse — his imperious snap and verve — in the sexy precision of its choreography, and in its vision of a lowly circus that titillates and thrills because it demonstrates that all the world’s a stage.”

Official Trailer