"Promoting Human Dignity, Family, Tolerance, and Capitalism"
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is an original, beautiful, engaging musical about the early life of P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum American Museum and co-founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN takes some liberties with Barnum’s rather full life, but it’s terrifically entertaining as well as heartwarming and features a bravura performance by Hugh Jackman, though its worldview is mixed with strong Romantic, sometimes rebellious, elements and odd characters, like a bearded lady, combined with strong moral elements focusing on Barnum’s love for his wife and first two daughters and his belief in the human dignity of all people.
The movie opens with Phineas T. Barnum as a young apprentice to his father, who’s a tailor, among other things. Working with his father for a rich man, Barnum becomes smitten with the man’s pretty blonde daughter, Charity. Barnum and Charity start a correspondence. After his father dies, Barnum goes off to find his fortune and, at 19, returns to Charity to take her away as his wife.
However, the couple struggles for several years, but begin to raise two beautiful daughters, Caroline and Helen. On the rooftop of their apartment after losing his job with a ship-owning company that went bankrupt, Barnum amazes his daughters with a magic lantern device and tells them to pick a dream. Helen wants to marry Santa Claus, but Caroline wants a pair of ballet shoes.
Barnum uses a ruse to get a loan of $10,000 to buy a museum of stuffed animals and wax figures. He renames the building Barnum’s American Museum. However, he has problems selling tickets to the museum. His problems disappear when he convinces a small dwarf named Charles Stratton to pose as General Tom Thumb and hires two black trapeze artists, a bearded lady, a hairy young man Barnum calls Dog Boy, and other human oddities, with Barnum as the ringmaster.
Suddenly, little Caroline has her ballet slippers, and the family has a beautiful new house, right down the street from Charity’s skeptical, mean father. Barnum’s good fortune soon hits some snags, however. Some people don’t like the human oddities he’s assembled. And, the other young girls in Caroline’s ballet class don’t like how her father makes his money.
Barnum staves off these naysayers by going to England with his troupe to visit the Queen. He returns to New York City with Swedish singing sensation Jenny Lind, who awes the highbrow set.
However, it’s only a matter of time before Barnum’s flaunting of social convention hits a snag he may not be able to overcome.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a spectacular entertainment designed to capture the viewer’s heart. The music is some of the most melodic you’ll find in such productions today, original or adapted. Hugh Jackman is a bonafide triple threat. He can sing, dance AND act. Jackman and the cast create movie magic. In fact, besides the musical numbers, one of the movie’s highlights are Barnum’s touching scenes with his two daughters.
The movie isn’t meant to be a blow-by-blow biographical drama of a man people read about in history books. So, it does take liberties with P.T. Barnum’s life. For instance, it skips over the general store Barnum owned and the newspaper he created by age 21, to go right into the museum he bought in 1835 (Barnum was born in 1810). It’s true, however, that his wealth exploded when he hired George aka General Tom Thumb and other so-called “freaks” and began heavily marketing his shows.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is often a heartwarming movie. That said, it does have a mixed worldview.
On the negative side, there are strong Romantic and rebellious elements. For example, the movie promotes pursuing one’s personal dreams without being guided by God or the Bible. Also, the movie has a politically correct tone of being tolerant of social outcasts. This theme has some obvious LGBT, homosexual connotations. Thus, the bearded lady in Barnum’s show of human oddities plays a central role. Also, there’s one or two androgynous characters during a couple musical numbers.
On the positive side, the movie has strong moral, uplifting elements. Barnum clearly loves his wife and daughters. Although the Jenny Lind character tempts him, Barnum resists the temptation. Also, despite the Romantic themes cited above, the movie attaches a moral, even biblical, idea to those themes, namely, that every human being has worth and human dignity, and should be treated as such. At one point in the story, Barnum forgets this biblical truth, but he returns to it in the end. The movie ends with the profound statement that the greatest art is making other people happy.
All in all, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is worthwhile viewing, a visually stunning, toe-tapping spectacular, despite the Romantic themes vying for the viewer’s attention.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a beautiful, engaging, original musical about the early life of Phineas T. Barnum, the extraordinary American showman. Barnum marries his childhood sweetheart, against her father’s wishes. They soon have two beautiful daughters, but Barnum struggles to provide for them. Barnum gets a risky loan to buy a museum of stuffed animals and wax figures. However, he has problems selling tickets until he hires a bunch of exotic live acts, including two black trapeze artists, a bearded lady who sings, a hairy man Barnum labels the “Dog Boy,” and a dwarf Barnum calls General Tom Thumb.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a spectacularly filmed, heartwarming musical. Hugh Jackman is a real triple threat. He can sing, dance AND act. Jacman and the cast create movie magic. That said, the movie’s worldview is mixed. It contains Romantic elements of following your dreams and being tolerant toward outcasts. This content has some PC, LGBT connotations. However, the movie’s positive elements, including Barnum’s love and loyalty toward his wife and children, and his biblical belief in the human dignity of all people, shine through THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.