The role that Hugh Jackman was born to play
Directed by: Michael Gracey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron
A Broadway production put on the big screen. A non-stop smile will accompany your toe tapping from opening number to close. Be prepared to buy the soundtrack quickly after watching this visual spectacle.
P.T. Barnum (Hugh ‘wait, he’s not just Wolverine’ Jackman) is trapped. He and his active imagination are trapped inside his life of poverty while working a nine to five mundane job. His wife Charity (Michelle ‘can’t believe she chose Pacey’ Williams) and two daughters are his ultimate support system no matter what he does. They love him for him no matter how much money he doesn’t have. But a great thing happens to him one day, he gets fired.
Barnum has hit rock bottom and brainstorms an idea. He swindles the bank into loaning him enough money to buy a huge wax museum. While his initial idea that people will love to come and pay money to see the odd and strange stuffed items in his museum is wrong, he isn’t that far off. It is live and actual odd or strange things that people will want to see. He goes on a recruiting trail to find the strangest people in all of New York City. He of course finds Dog Boy, The Bearded Lady, The Irish Giant, The Fattest Man in the World and so many more. He ignores all protestors and judgement from the high society of New York and puts them all on stage and front and center to the world. Adding in live animals, singing, dancing, high flying trapeze acts and he has created the Circus!
Things go extremely well financially for Barnum and his crew. Despite the critics constantly disregarding his show as being fake, he endures as the fans pour in. His next step is to appeal to the high and wealthy of the town. He recruits one of their own, a stage play producer Phillip Carlyle (Zac ‘please erase Baywatch from your minds’ Efron). With Carlyle on board the sky has become the absolute limit.
Such success isn’t enough for Barnum though. While meeting the Queen of England he runs into the most famous singer in all of Europe – Ms. Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Barnum recruits her to come to America on his dime and tour the country making her the most famous singer in the world. She agrees and Barnum now has officially added far too much to his plate. His appetite to make everyone love him from pauper to prince is never enough.
Barnum must find a way to devote time to the Circus, to Lind and to his family before he loses them all. But does he realize any of this before it is too late?
This movie has been a dream project of Hugh Jackmans since 2009 and it is easy to see why. He absolutely destroys this role! Every piece of talent that Jackman excels at is on full display in this movie. His singing, his dancing, his depth of character building are all center ring for the entire production. His cast of characters around him are all excellent as well but what sells the majority of them is their chemistry with Jackman. I could watch a Jackman-Efron series of team up movies easily. I don’t know how many times they needed to rehearse their first big number together but it looks as if they needed none.
From start till end you’ll be entertained. Unfortunately the actual plot of the film doesn’t fully hold up. It feels like there were a multitude of storylines that the filmmakers wanted to include but simply ran out of time. Much more in depth they could have gone with many characters and situations that Barnum alone finds himself in. There were rumors of re-shoots and some cleaning up that was needed towards the end. I wonder if they went back and removed scenes and then re-shot new scenes to help the movie flow together.
At no point does the movie not make sense, it simply feels like they tried to do too much. Luckily the entertainment value is high enough that you can happily overlook the majority of these moments.
The acting is well done. Jackman and Efron are perfectly cast in their roles. The music is fun and has a pop to it. I recommend seeing this film in the theaters. If you enjoy musicals you will certainly enjoy this production.
7 out of 10