Because I didn’t review Michael Gracey, Hugh Jackman and James Mangold‘s The Greatest Showman when everyone else did, I conveyed an impression that I haven’t seen it. Except I have. I caught it on the Fox lot on 12.13, and then…well, I kind of put it aside. It’s not that I hated the damn thing or even disliked it. It’s not so much painful to sit through as draining. It’s a big, fat, empty-headed, old-school musical with an exclamation point, and by that I mean a musical with nothing going on inside. All The Greatest Showman wants to do is shovel the exuberance as it over-produces and over-sells.
Using a simplistic pruning of the life of P.T. Barnum as a narrative thread, it’s basically a series of splashy music videos strung end to end. It’s not bad, I didn’t hate it, you could do worse, etc. Jackman and his costars — Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Keala Settle — perform well under the circumstances. It’s just that Gracey tries so hard and the film feels so synthetic.
Last night I felt a bit nauseous after visiting a Michael Kors store in the Beverly Center. All that glitter garb, all those gold chains and sparkly shoe buckles and gaudy cluelessness, and with Michael Kors branding on just about every item. Kors seems to be selling uptown threads to people without much taste, to people who wouldn’t know stylistic understatement if it bit them in the ass. People of limited education who don’t get it, who feel they need to make some kind of vaguely vulgar, attention-getting statement in order to matter.
These are the people, I told myself, who will love The Greatest Showman. I’m not putting the movie down per se. It is what it is, and some will have a fairly good time with it. But Jesus, it feels so vapid, so lacking in edge and so consumed by a desire to entertain the most impressionable Vegas-visiting schmucks in the room.