Sunday, July 22, 2018
Movies

Why ‘The Greatest Showman’ is the feel-good movie the holiday season needs

The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman as circus maximizer P.T. Barnum is just getting started when the bearded lady sings.

The beard is fake but Keala Settle’s voice is for real. Her song is This Is Me, an anthem for the human oddities Barnum collected on his way to the big top, or anyone feeling odd sometimes. It’s a showstopper in a musical of many, another soaring original score from the composers of La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen.

The Greatest Showman is their third ring, a circus extravaganza built on pillars of classic musical style that La La Land only brushed against. Nearly as old-fashioned as its 19th century period, yet the songs by Oscar and Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul always tug at modern emotions, ambitions and download demographics.

Here, they address serious issues of love, greed and intolerance with unshakable melodies and lyrics. A Million Dreams send Barnum from boyhood to financially strapped fatherhood. Respectability becomes temptation (Never Enough). Grotesque misfits that Barnum exploits stir public rage although not as much as an interracial couple wishing to Rewrite the Stars.

Out-of-nowhere director Michael Gracey accommodates their songs with a Luhrmann-esque swirl of sight and sound; Moulin Rouge! without the cover tunes. The late-19th century and circus settings give Gracey plenty of eye candy to dish out whenever his game, gifted actors aren’t stealing the camera.

Jackman’s proficiency in musical theater is unquestioned after The Boy From Oz on Broadway and Les Miserables on film. P.T. Barnum is a outsize character matching his talent, duly romanticized to suit a former sexiest man alive.

There’s no neo-musical realism to The Greatest Showman, no settling for Ryan Gosling’s mutter because "real people sing that way." Jackman croons to balconies that aren’t there, a throwback hybrid of Howard Keel’s booming swagger in Gene Kelly’s athletic dancing shoes. Stars don’t get turns like this often. Jackman nails it.

He’s ably matched by Zac Efron as Barnum’s business partner Philip Carlyle in a saloon negotiation number (The Other Side) complete with shot glass choreography. Philip’s infatuation with a black trapeze artist (Zendaya) leads to an aerial duet joining the clothesline sheets wind-dancing like Rockettes as Gracey’s most memorable touches.

One surprise among the stars: Who knew Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife, Charity, can sing and dance as well as she does here? Williams gets her chance to suffer as usual on screen but this other side is delightful. On the other hand, the entire circus troupe comprised of unknowns like Settle is a talented foundation for spectacle.

The Greatest Showman is the feel-good (and feel good about it) movie every holiday season needs. P.T. Barnum is famous for saying there’s a sucker born every minute and he’s still right. For 105 minutes I’m a sucker for his movie, that may not be the greatest show on Earth but close enough.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
In theaters this week: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,’ ‘The Equalizer 2,’ silent film ‘Safety Last’

In theaters this week: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,’ ‘The Equalizer 2,’ silent film ‘Safety Last’

OPENING FRIDAY:MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAINSophie (Amanda Seyfried) learns about the past of her mother (Meryl Streep in present time, Lily James in flashbacks) while pregnant herself in this sequel to the Abba-fueled musical comedy. With Pierce Brosn...
Published: 07/18/18
Disney movie spent more than $134,000 while filming in Lakeland

Disney movie spent more than $134,000 while filming in Lakeland

When Walt Disney Studios filmed in Lakeland in June for its movie The One and Only Ivan, it brought actor Bryan Cranston to Polk County to star in the scenes.And the movie left behind an economic impact. In all, Disney spent $134,365 in Polk. Those n...
Published: 07/12/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Hotel Transylvania 3,’ ‘Skyscraper,’ ‘Sorry to Bother You’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Hotel Transylvania 3,’ ‘Skyscraper,’ ‘Sorry to Bother You’

OPENING THURSDAY: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATIONThe extended family of monsters heads out on a luxury cruise ship. Voices include Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Mel Brooks. Written by Genndy Tartakovsky, Michael McCullers. Directed ...
Published: 07/11/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp,’ ‘The First Purge,’ free Lynyrd Skynyrd documentary

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp,’ ‘The First Purge,’ free Lynyrd Skynyrd documentary

OPENING: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP Striving for a work-life balance proves elusive for Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), the superhero with the ability to shrink, when he is confronted with a new mission and a new partner, the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). With Michael Pe...
Updated one month ago
Iron Man writer discusses new Ant-Man and what the future may hold for Tony Stark

Iron Man writer discusses new Ant-Man and what the future may hold for Tony Stark

Bob Layton is having a Hollywood moment. Actually, it’s more like a decade.The comic book artist, writer and editor now residing in the Tampa area has watched Iron Man — the character he turned from little known to mainstream hero — anchor the Marvel...
Updated one month ago
For Broadway fans, Capitol Theatre has a $5 summer movie series

For Broadway fans, Capitol Theatre has a $5 summer movie series

To build excitement for its fall series of Broadway shows at Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Capitol Theatre this summer will run a series of Tony winners that made it to the big screen. At $5 a ticket — $9 for unlimited fountain drinks and popcorn ­— it’s con...
Updated one month ago
Review: ‘Whitney’ documentary an unflinching look at Whitney Houston’s long downfall

Review: ‘Whitney’ documentary an unflinching look at Whitney Houston’s long downfall

There today is no singer like a young Whitney Houston. Beyoncé, Adele, Lady Gaga — maybe on their best days, they come close to matching the voice, the radiance, the potential of early Whitney. But not every day.Those highest highs, and the vast gap ...
Updated one month ago
Tarpon Springs’ Aaron Moorhead is an indie film darling, even if he won’t admit it

Tarpon Springs’ Aaron Moorhead is an indie film darling, even if he won’t admit it

Director Aaron Moorhead’s 2014 independent film Spring landed him on Hollywood trade publication Variety’s list of "Top 10 Directors to Watch in 2015."The Tarpon Springs native’s latest indie film, The Endless, released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 26,...
Updated one month ago
In theaters this week: ‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado,’ ‘Uncle Drew’

In theaters this week: ‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado,’ ‘Uncle Drew’

OPENING FRIDAY:SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADOThe cartels escalate the tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border when they begin trafficking terrorists in this sequel to the 2015 crime drama. With Benicio Del Toro, right, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey ...
Updated one month ago