Until recently, it had been a while since musicals graced the big screen. 2001 gave us Baz Luhrmann’s fantastic Moulin Rouge, followed by 2004’s the Phantom of the Opera and 2013’s Les Miserables. Yet it has been 24 years since an original musical was given the green light. Until 2016’s La La Land. The film was a huge hit, almost but not quite winning an Oscar for best movie. After La La Land’s success, there was nothing that could stop The Greatest Showman from being produced. Based loosely on the story of P.T. Barnum, the original music tells the story of rags-to-riches of Barnum (Jackman) and his dream of setting up a circus celebrating the unique.
While audiences love the film, and some critics have been favourable, a large amount of critics have slammed the film for ‘lacking any substance.’ I saw the film and adored it for many different reasons. For a while I wondered if that meant I missed something the critics noticed. I have to be honest, I always check Rotten Tomatoes to see how well a film scored. It does not necessarily stop me from seeing a film, but it often influences my thoughts before I go in. But what makes The Greatest Showman different? Why do audiences love something a lot of critics appear to hate?
What Critics Say
The Greatest Showman currently has a 55% score on Rotten Tomatoes. While this means that there are worse films out there, it is not really a favourable score. One critic is quoted saying
“The Greatest Showman is a perfunctory effort in story, music, dance, and direction that proffers empty messages about uniqueness, reaching not for the stars but for bland homogeneity.”
I am not going to post more quotes here, but the critics who are against this film all appear to have similar thoughts on the film.
There have been a lot of positive reviews. One of the lines from the review in the Huffington Post that stands out the most is this one:
You will be overwhelmed by the music and magic that explode on the screen. The film has a message that should resonate with today’s world concerning acceptance and courage
It is a quote I wholeheartedly agree with for a variety of reasons.
A celebration of the unique
The Greatest Showman essentially is the film I needed when I was fifteen years old. It is a celebration of the outsider, of those who do not fit in. In general, there are few mainstream films that have embraced the outsider in such a genuine way. From the colourful portrayal of Barnum’s circus to the ground-shaking anthems, this film resonated with me on so many different levels.
It screams that it is okay to not fit in, because there are always people around who are like you. It is okay to not feel okay, because if you look around you, there are always those who will catch you when you fall. It’s fine not to look like everybody else, because there is beauty in all of us. Yes, the plot might not be groundbreaking and the storyline thin. Yet this film does so many things right. While some critics may argue the message is too obvious, it does not matter to those of us who the film speaks too. We want to be loud and obvious. We want to be seen. And that is what The Greatest Showman does right most of all.
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
The Greatest Soundtrack
Another great thing about this film is the fantastic soundtrack. The songs are more pop than true musical, which is appealing to both audiences. The songs are anthems, meant to be sung from the top of your lungs. Other songs are great when you are dealing with heartbreak. Basically, the soundtrack is fantastic and it is no wonder it went to the top of the billboard charts.
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the nightsky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
The Greatest Show
Don’t let these bad critic reviews stop you from seeing this gem. If you love musicals and colourful films, this is a film for you. Some of these critics do not seem to understand that this is a film with a heart and a soul and most importantly, a loud voice. In a world that is on fire, The Greatest Showman provides an escape. It’s 105 minutes running time is honestly not enough.