The Greatest Showman – Coming up from nothing, Phineas Taylor Barnum dreams of one day being a success. With the help of his doting family, his visions of grandeur begin to come to fruition when he realises the potential of human oddities. Before long he has a show that pulls in hoards of customers and meeting the beautiful and talented singer Jenny Lind gives him scope to expand his business to more serious horizons, but will the ever-increasing success ever be enough for him?

The Greatest Showman (2017) – Director: Michael Gracey

Is The Greatest Showman appropriate for kids?

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55168888

Rating: PG

Running Length: 105 mins

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron

Genre: Musical, Drama

REVIEW: ‘THE GREATEST SHOWMAN’

PT Barnum, founder of the Barnum and Bailey circus, is one of history’s more controversial figures. Celebrating hoaxes (such as the ‘Feejee Mermaid’ – the head of a monkey sewn onto the tail of a fish), human ‘oddities’, using animals to perform (a practice requiring abuse), and exploiting some of his acts horribly, he can be argued to be a man of his time, a charlatan, or somewhere inbetween. ‘The Greatest Showman’ skims over all of this to show the razzmatazz and performance side of his life with bright colours and larger-then-life characters.

Of course, the movie’s Barnum treats all of his employees with utmost respect and equality despite using them for what is essentially a ‘freak show’. The exploitative nature of his show is glossed over in the movie and re-purposed as a tale of a man with a huge chip on his shoulder about his humble origins who delights in not being part of the establishment, whilst simultaneously yearning for its approval. Regardless, the menagerie of performers develop a very engaging camaraderie and their relationship with Barnum acts as the tonal focal point throughout the movie.

In typical ‘musical’ fashion, a lot of the plot is in a hurry to get somewhere so we have rather shorthand moments used as an excuse to set up grand song and dance set pieces. However, the songs are a triumph with genuinely toe-tapping dance routines which, tonally, make the emotional moments ring out and the showman circus an explosion of joyous celebration of diversity. Based in truth or not, ‘The Greatest Showman’ imbues each scene with larger than life power which all rotates around the inescapable charisma of star, Hugh Jackman. As ever, Jackman delivers a nuanced performance which acts as the movie’s emotional core. With a less engaging star in the role the movie may have descended in schmaltz, but with Jackman’s journey grounding the action the movie can safely take flight in the rafters.

‘The Greatest Showman’ may be a glossed over version of the life of a man of infamy, but as an entertainment showcase skipping over the (true) depth of its source material, ‘The Greatest Showman’ successfully blows a puff of stardust in our eyes and achieves a rare blend of musical, spectacle, and common engagement. Unlike some other musicals where people can suddenly bray into verse and the gear shift clunks painfully, ‘The Greatest Showman’ song and dance parts always feels like just part of the show already being told. And what a joy it is to be part of that audience.

CONTENT: IS ‘THE GREATEST SHOWMAN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

When Barnum is a young boy, he and his father (a tailor) are visiting a customer in his home. When Barnum makes the customer’s daughter laugh and lose concentration on a lesson the man hits Barnum hard around the face.

As a grown man, Barnum purchases an old theatre and when the scene begins, a mop of curly blonde is shown in close-up as the blade of a guillotine falls down, chopping off the ‘head’ which is quickly shown to be a model.

Barnum begins recruiting and visits the home of a potential ‘oddity’ called Charlie. Charlie says ‘You want people to laugh at me’ to which Barnum replies ‘They laugh at you anyway, you might as well get paid’. When visiting a woman to recruit, Barnum calls her ‘beautiful’ causing other women around her to laugh; this clearly humiliates and upsets the woman.

A love begins to blossom between two characters but due to them being of different races, the pair struggle to get passed how others view them. At one point, the male character holds the woman’s hand but due to a couple looking at them and whispering, he quickly lets go, ashamed of what they might think. This upsets the woman who walks away in disgust. Later, a character describes the male as ‘parading around with the help’.

A mob gathers around a theatre and is shown at several points in the movie to be increasing in size. The crowd shout abuse at the performers and aggressively wave placards. Later, they provoke a fight.

There is a huge fire and two major characters run in to the blazing building, seconds later, the entire roof collapses and it appears as though both characters have been killed.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘THE GREATEST SHOWMAN’ FOR KIDS?

‘The Greatest Showman’ may skim over the more controversial aspects of the PT Barnum’s life and be off-putting for many for this reason. But taken on face value for sheer entertainment it is choc full of toe tapping numbers, colourful backdrops and engaging characters all of which make for an exciting showcase. While the singing and dancing are wonderfully entertaining, the drama may prove to be somewhat dull for younger viewers and therefore we feel ‘The Greatest Showman’ is most appropriate for kids aged 6 and over.

  • Violence: 1/5 (a boy is slapped hard around the face by an adult. A fight between some characters turns into a brawl)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (the film deals with prejudice which results in several characters getting upset. One character is heavily emotionally affected by another singing)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (the fire at the theatre could be scary for children afraid of such destruction)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (very chaste relationships that don’t go beyond hand holding and kisses. One character is attracted to another despite them being unavailable and almost kisses them)
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of accepting others for who they are, social prejudice, human nature to enjoy spectacle, exploiting others for personal gain, interracial relationships, fighting against one’s origins, the camaraderie of a similar group, and working for a better life for your family.

Words by Laura Record and Mike Record

The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)


New From: £9.99 GBP In Stock
Release date December 8, 2017.

Related Posts

Share this review!Share on Facebook5Share on Google+0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Tumblr0Pin on Pinterest0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Digg thisEmail this to someone