The Greatest Showman was unable to rewrite the stars with its formulaic story. Every year there is a "crowd pleaser", a film that has garnered criticism from industry experts but received overwhelming popularity from audiences. This was that film in 2017. A infectiously joyous musical that was hailed to be a monumental rejuvenation of the genre (because apparently 'La La Land' failed to do that, despite being perfect). But beneath the showstoppers and audacious musical numbers, lies a predictably formulaic story that feels weaker than Efron's 'High School Musical' days. Loosely based on P.T. Barnum's life, this musical chronicles his showmanship years as he recruits a band of "oddities" to perform in his new show. However fame and fortune corrupts him as he succumbs to greed and...well, you can guess the rest. You may have noticed the supreme reign of the soundtrack throughout this year, as radio stations constantly blast out "This Is Me". That's because, and I'm starting off bold, this is one of the best musical soundtracks ever. Literally every track is memorable, both melodically and lyrically. From the powerhouse "This Is Me" to the gorgeously romantic "Rewrite The Stars". Each song has its own vibe and suits the situation they are performed in. It's just a shame the film itself doesn't complement the excellence of its soundtrack.
The rags-to-riches plot has been executed countless times, and is quite frankly becoming dull. Aside from the delicate (albeit forced) romance between Efron and Zendaya, the story lacks substance. Barnum remains unlikeable throughout, including at the very end when he encounters redemption. The wrong choices he obviously decides to take prevent him from being relatable. There's a fine margin between representing greed (whilst justifying it) and creating an inhumane character. The theme of acceptance that should've been flailing on the circus floor is unfortunately sidelined. Nearly every supporting character is underused. I mean Barnum's wife forgives him almost immediately, consequently diluting the much needed drama. Williams' fragility and delicate nature was severely misplaced, which frustrates me. It's clear that this is the "Hugh Jackman Show" and he does deliver on almost everything. He dives into the routines, brings naivety to Barnum and is most certainly having a good time. Efron and Zendaya were also excellent, and would love to have seen more of them. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the film could've benefited from adding an extra thirty minutes to the runtime. Spacing out the dialogue and drama between songs instead of feeling like a collection of music videos strung together with a lack of imaginative storytelling.
This review may sound negative, but that's only because I wanted more. In all honesty I enjoyed it. I was smiling, tapping my feet to the songs and even belting out "never enoughhhhhhhh for me...for meee...for MEEEEE". It's a joyous pleasing film that will appeal to the masses, with the numerous showstoppers disguising what is essentially a weak story.