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The Greatest Showman Movie Review

Reviewed by on Dec 21, 2017
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw the musical drama The Greatest Showman. Do artist/stars like Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Zendaya sing and dance their hearts out? Is it a must-see? Check our movie review.

By: Lynn Barker

In the late 1800’s, P.T. Barnum, once an urchin living on the streets, became The Greatest Showman by displaying “freaks”, people with some deformities or unique physical characteristics to a paying audience. He finally created the performing circus we are more familiar with in a tent format that survived for over a hundred years. In this film, he was also a loving father and husband who was determined to rise above his “station” in life and take his family with him despite a heavy personal price.

Barnum sings about his wonderful circusBarnum sings about his wonderful circusCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Young Barnum

Young tween Phineas Taylor Barnum (Ellis Ruben), son of a tailor, goes with his abusive dad to wealthy clients the Hallets where there is a mutual spark between him and the Hallet’s daughter Charity (Skylar Dunn). The kids are inseparable despite the strong objections of her snooty father. He sends Charity to finishing school but young Barnum writes to her. Grown up (Hugh Jackman) Barnum is finally able to make a meager living in a shipping firm as an accountant. He and Charity (Michelle Williams) marry and are happy despite poverty. She shares his big dreams as do their two young daughters Caroline (Austyn Johnson) and Helen (Cameron Seely).

Barnum, Charity and daughtersBarnum, Charity and daughtersCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Job Loss and New Dream

When many of the firm’s ships sink in a storm, it goes bankrupt firing all the employees but Barnum is able to lie, pretending he owns the ships, and puts them up as collateral for a bank loan that allows him to build a curiosity shop, a museum with stuffed exotic animals most locals have never seen. This doesn’t really work and the children give Barnum the idea to present fantastic live entertainment, something “real” and unusual. Barnum sets out recruiting “freaks” with an unusual appearance for his show. There is little person Tom Thumb, a bearded lady, a furry dog boy, a super tall and a super fat man, acrobats, trapeze artists etc. The performers draw an audience but are also ridiculed.

Barnum and Charity are poor, young and in loveBarnum and Charity are poor, young and in loveCourtesy of 20th Century Fox


Curious audiences come to what Barnum now calls a circus and, despite bad reviews, he is finally a big success while the “freaks” bond as a family. He is able to buy his family a fabulous home and Caroline can take ballet lessons but the family is still shunned by “polite” society. At a party, Barnum meets young, successful, upper class playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and lures the bored young man to a life in the circus, eventually becoming his partner. Phillip falls for trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) and she for him. He is able to get Barnum an audience with young Victoria the Queen of England and Barnum insists his whole troupe come as well. The Queen seems to love them all.

Phillip and Anne declare their love high above the stagePhillip and Anne declare their love high above the stageCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Jenny Lind and Disaster

When Barnum meets popular singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), he is both infatuated and sees a business opportunity. He brings her to the states and her first concert is a big hit. Meanwhile Phillip and Anne fall in love but he backs off when his rich parents disapprove. Finally Charity’s parents seem to like the Lind concerts but still put Barnum down as trash. He fires back upsetting Charity. Jenny admits her parents weren’t married so she and Barnum feel they can relate class-wise. Ever the social climber, Barnum shuts out the freaks when they try to come to his party.

Singer Jenny Lind is in love with BarnumSinger Jenny Lind is in love with BarnumCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Sad Homecoming

Anne and Phillip struggle to have a relationship while Charity and the kids are alone and Barnum is on tour with Lind who falls for him although he evidently does not have an affair with her. He kisses her on stage for publicity and hurt, she quits the tour and he comes back home where Charity, having seen the kiss in the papers, leaves him. More locals protest the circus where Phillip is now ringmaster and they start a fire. The entire building burns down but all get to safety, except Phillip whom Barnum rescues. Anne goes to Phillip’s bedside.

Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and Phillip (Zac Efron) make a dealBarnum (Hugh Jackman) and Phillip (Zac Efron) make a dealCourtesy of 20th Century Fox


Will Barnum be able to rebuild his circus? Will his employees ever trust and love him again? Will Phillip and Anne’s relationship grow or die? Will Barnum and Charity reconcile and will he ever realize that his two “families”; the circus performers and his wife and daughters, are finally enough for him?

Song List  - All songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

  • “The Greatest Show”
  • “A Million Dreams”
  • “A Million Dreams (reprise)”
  • “Come Alive”
  • “The Other Side”
  • “Never Enough”
  • “This is Me”
  • “Rewrite the Stars”
  • “Tightrope”
  • “Never Enough (reprise)”
  • “From Now On”

Phillip is fascinated by the circus folkPhillip is fascinated by the circus folkCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Wrapping Up

The Greatest Showman is amazing entertainment. Songs by the young songwriters who won awards for La La Land are modern and memorable. As performed by Zac, Zendaya and the great Hugh Jackman, they become some of the best movie musical entertainment in years.

Phillip tries to convince Anne to be his girlPhillip tries to convince Anne to be his girlCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Jackman plays Barnum as a well-meaning but not always kind dreamer. The real P.T. Barnum wasn’t a hero by any means and his circus was cruel to animals and perhaps more cruel to the “freaks” he recruited for it than depicted in the movie BUT this film is more upbeat fantasy than fact and the amazing music and beautiful performances will sweep you up until you too feel that putting on the Greatest Show on Earth is a great idea and that your most impossible dreams can come true. The movie celebrates diversity, friendship and love.

Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron at the The Greatest Showman premiereHugh and Zac at the premiereCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Longtime Zac Efron fans should be thrilled to see him singing and dancing again. It’s been a long time since the “High School Musical” or “Hairspray” days. Hugh Jackman goes musical for the first time since his role in the Les Miserables movie but with more energy and pure showmanship. The song “The Other Side” a duet between the two guys is super high energy and wonderful. Zac and Zendaya’s duet while sailing over the circus floor is thrilling and romantic.  Is there nothing these guys can’t do?

Zendaya at the premiereZendaya at the premiereCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

I would only say that almost 50-year-old Jackman is a bit old to play the grown but 20-something Barnum but this is short-lived and the character is soon older and Hugh then fits the part like a glove. Michelle Williams plays the long-suffering wife well and Tony-nominated Keala Settle is amazing in song, dance and acting as the bearded lady. Overall everybody involved seems to be having a blast and you will too. We can go four stars. 

The Greatest Showman Movie Rating: 4

The Greatest Showman Movie PosterThe Greatest Showman Movie PosterCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Greatest Showman is in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Are you a Zac or Hugh Jackman fan? Do you just love great musicals? Does great singing and dancing impress you every time? Talk about it below with a comment!