‘The Greatest Showman’: Stay for the music, not the plot

JANUARY 3 — If people were to ask me if they’d like The Greatest Showman, my answer would be: how much do you like cotton candy?

Cotton candy is by itself not the greatest of sweets. The puffy novelty wears thin after a mouthful, which leaves you with a sickly sweet mess. But the memories that come with it -- of funfairs, or laughing as it got tangled in someone’s hair, of licking the residue off your fingers -- that’s what you really love if you say you love cotton candy.

The Greatest Showman is not "the greatest" by any stretch of the imagination but the saccharine sweetness, syrupy melodies, and overflowing winsomeness of the cast improbably come together to make something delightful, if you let it.

My five-word review of the film would be “Hugh Jackman is a god.” Those who are ignorant of Jackman’s musical theatre background get a glimpse of him in fine form, far better than in the painful schlock of Les Miserables. If anyone alive was made for this role, it’s Jackman and he earns his Golden Globes nomination for it.

The script itself is shallow, more like hastily pencilled-in dialogue to make the songs flow together. Are the songs good enough to make it worth it? Almost.

'The Greatest Showman' is no masterpiece, but it's a fine showcase of musical talent. — Picture courtesy of 20th Century Fox
'The Greatest Showman' is no masterpiece, but it's a fine showcase of musical talent. — Picture courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who won an Oscar for La La Land's 'City of Stars') craft tunes that pay homage to old-timey musicals but with a lot of contemporary pop sensibility.

There are people who haven't even watched the film yet but are already in love with the soundtrack - it's that good.

Bucking the Hollywood trend of casting actors who can't actually sing and putting them in musicals (La La Land/Les Miserables), the singing voices and dancing are West End-worthy.

Michelle Williams is a delight, as are Zendaya and Zac Efron paired up as star-crossed interracial lovers. And it bears repeating, Hugh Jackman is a god.

If you're going, expecting an incisive film on PT Barnum's sordid exploits, you'll be disappointed.

If you want beautiful music, excellent setpieces and choreography, great acting, singing and dancing, this was made for you.

It's also the best thing to watch if you, like me, felt physical pain watching Ryan Gosling looking like he wanted to be anywhere but on the set of La La Land.

My advice: enjoy The Greatest Showman for what it is, and not what you want it to be.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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