MOVIE REEL: The Greatest Showman is a feel-good movie

Wednesday March 18 2020

This flick is borrowed from the actual circus, the Barnum and Bailey Circus, established in 1919. The movie tells the story of a young boy, who grows up under his father's harsh hand and later goes on to start a circus. PHOTO | COURTESY


Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

It's always nice to see Hugh Jackman in a role that isn't Wolverine. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Wolverine, but it can get pretty tiring to subscribe to one actor's typecast characters.

Examples? Do you think it's really possible for Vin Diesel to be anything other than the clogged-nose sounding battle-hardy semi-hero he's been for what feels like the last fifteen years? I didn't think so.

And as much as I love (LOVE) the Rock, I haven't really seen him deviate from the macho mega man type character that he's been playing since...well, since he started to wrestle. Think about it – Scorpion King. The Rock. Baywatch. Ballers. Even in Jumanji, where he's actually a high school boy, the essence of The Rock still comes out. I'm not complaining, though.

Hugh revolutionised the Marvel franchise when he started playing the gritty, no-holds barred regenerating metal man with a soft heart back in the day, but he has still kept true to his talents of the stage, acting in movies like Les Miserables (singing! And dancing!) and now, in the same vein, The Greatest Showman.

This flick is borrowed from the actual circus, the Barnum and Bailey Circus, established in 1919. The movie tells the story of a young boy, who grows up under his father's harsh hand.

His father is a tailor, and goes to rich people's houses on house calls, taking his young son with him to serve as an assistant. On one of these trips, the young boy falls in love with the daughter of the household, Charity.

When she is sent away to finishing school, they keep in touch, writing letters to each other through her schooling and his father's death, until the day her education is complete and he comes back to their grand manor, for her hand in marriage, regardless of her father's disapproval.


They move to New York, and are happy with their two children, but something is always bothering Mr Barnum. Though Charity is happy with their life, Barnum wants more. He has something to prove.

When there is a massive retrenchment at his job, he decides to risk it all and open a circus style entertainment centre, fibbing his way through a bank interview to get a loan for the building where he's going to make his dreams come true.

There are a few ups and downs before they get the show running; Barnum pivots his selling point and recruits what the outside world calls 'freaks' and turns the circus into the Greatest Show on Earth, as is their tag-line.

He has the classic entrants: people of short stature, bearded ladies and the tallest man in the world. For a while, this is enough, but eventually Barnum becomes greedy.

As his show is not considered true art, he is shunned by high society; but high society is where he wants to be, and he thus sacrifices everything – his circus, his friends and his family – to get it.

Jackman's character irritated me briefly, because the plot-line was so obvious. You know what's going to happen to him, and you see him being led by his pride into catastrophe, but it's so boring, how it happens.

The songs are amazing, and more than make up for that particular story line, but the conclusion was disappointing, in my view. Then, of course, there were the supporting actors and actresses; the children were delightful, as was the cast in the circus.

I love Zac Efron, but Zendaya never really pops for me as an actress or a video vixen. Maybe I just haven't caught the Zendaya wave yet, but I don't know what it's going to take, seeing as I was already underwhelmed by her appearance in Spider Man: Homecoming.

Be warned, it's a musical, so there are a lot of good songs and heady, idealistic moments. But this feel-good movie made me feel good, so I would recommend it for a quiet night in the house when you're in the mood for dreaming.