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The director, Michael Gracey, is an Australian maker of commercials who has never directed a feature before, and he works with an exuberant sincerity that can’t be faked. The Greatest Showman is a concoction, the kind of film where the pieces all click into place, yet at an hour and 45 minutes it flies by, and the link it draws between P.T. Barnum and the spirit of today is more than hype.
The movie never quite stops feeling like Moulin Rouge! written in extra-large block font, or Broadway projected straight onto a big screen, which certainly isn’t bad news if that’s exactly what you love.
Shamelessly familiar and profoundly alien in equal measure, The Greatest Showman takes a billion of the world’s oldest story beats and refashions their prefab emotions into something that feels like it’s being projected from another planet.
The Greatest Showman is, like the singing, dancing, versatile actor who stars in it, larger than life. And if this is the only screen musical we can get out of the last of his peak performing years, it’ll do.
It’s not a film to break moulds or test boundaries. Yet Jackman’s real charm will carry you along.
This whole endeavor never becomes as bewitching as it should be. It’s never more than adequate, and while P.T. Barnum will go down as one of the most interesting men in history, this film won’t pull off the same feat.
For the most part, the movie’s ideas about Barnum are incredibly stupid and, at times, kind of sweet in their daftness.
An amusement park version of P.T. Barnum is fine, as far as that goes, but if you are going to aim for family-friendly fun, you need to get the fun part right.
But the only sense of wonder the film instils is this: if we have to wait so long between movie musicals, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to wait for this one?
This ersatz portrait of American big-top tent impresario P.T. Barnum is all smoke and mirrors, no substance. It hammers pedestrian themes of family, friendship and inclusivity while neglecting the fundaments of character and story.

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