The Greatest Showman is an American biographical musical drama film based on the life of the American showman P. T. Barnum. The film is directed by Michael Gracey and written by Jenny Bicks, and Bill Condon. The film was released on December 25, 2017 in the U.S.
The story of American showman P. T. Barnum, founder of the circus that became the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
PlotThe film opens with a circus sequence (The Greatest Show) led by the famed American showman P. T. Barnum, which then fades to the young Barnum and his father, a tailor working for the Hallett family. The young Barnum jokes with a young Charity Hallett learning table etiquette from a private tutor, earning him a stern reprimand and her a grounding from her parents. The two meet again later outside, where Charity tells Barnum that she is being sent to finishing school; Barnum reassures her that they will not be separated despite this. The two keep in touch throughout through letters until they meet again in adulthood (A Million Dreams), eventually going to marry each other, Charity gets pregnant and having two children, Caroline and Helen. (A Million Dreams (Reprise)) in New York. The family lives a humble life in an apartment - while Charity is happy with their life, however, Barnum dreams of more, wanting to offer Charity a life of wealth and comfort.
Barnum is fired from his job as a clerk at a shipping company after the company goes bankrupt following the sinking of their trading ships in a typhoon. Taking a risky bet on an idea, he takes out a large loan from a bank, deceiving the bank into using the sunken trading ships of his former employer as collateral. He uses this loan to build "Barnum’s American Museum" in downtown Manhattan, an attraction showcasing various wax models of subjects of interest, including a giraffe, elephant, and various historical figures. Initially, sales are slow; on the suggestion of his children, he endeavors to search for various "freaks" (people with various physical abnormalities or extraordinary abilities) to serve as performers for his museum (Come Alive) – this venture succeeds, attracting a wide audience and resulting in high ticket sales despite protests and poor reviews (the wording of one of which prompts Barnum to rename his venture to "Barnum’s Circus").Searching for ways to further his reputation and credibility amongst the upper class, he meets Phillip Carlyle and convinces him to join his venture (The Other Side) with promises of liberation from the pressures and various struggles of his life. Upon Carlyle’s arrival to the venture, he becomes enamored with one of the performers, Anne Wheeler, an acrobat and trapeze artist. Carlyle manages to arrange for Barnum and his troupe to meet Queen Victoria, who is amused by them – it is here that he meets Jenny Lind, a famed European opera singer, who he convinces to perform in America, with Barnum serving as marketer and manager. Her first performance (Never Enough) is a success, receiving critical acclaim, with Barnum deciding to take her on a tour across the US – in the process, however, he begins to neglect his original circus, to the disappointment to Carlyle and the troupe’s performers, who begin to feel as if they are being ignored once more (This Is Me). Meanwhile, Carlyle and Wheeler struggle with their budding relationship under pressure from societal norms, which prompts Wheeler to break off the relationship (Rewrite the Stars). Charity, too, is feeling increasingly isolated from her husband, who is now away on tour with Lind as she stays home to take care of their children (Tightrope).
While on tour with Barnum, Lind becomes increasingly attached to Barnum, making advances towards him; when Barnum declines, in a fit of anger, she calls off the tour. During the following performance’s curtain call (Never Enough (Reprise)), she impulsively kisses him onstage in a moment captured by photographers. Barnum returns home to find his circus on fire, a result of a fight between protesters and the troupe’s performers – in the chaos, Carlyle believes Wheeler to be stuck in the burning building and rushes in himself to save her ; when Wheeler emerges unharmed on her own, Barnum decides to head in himself to save Carlyle. The building collapses; no one is harmed, but most of the set and props have been destroyed. To further Barnum’s struggles, word of the cancellation of Lind’s tour as well as his public moment with Lind reaches New York, resulting in not just further financial difficulties from the loss of income from the tour but also his eviction from his mansion.
Dejected, Barnum turns to alcohol; however, met with his cast, who encourage him to continue, he resolves to work to build himself back up and rebuild the circus, this time with him keeping himself down-to-earth rather than being carried away with his reputation and wealth (From Now On). Meanwhile, the injured Carlyle wakes in the hospital with Wheeler by his side, the two sharing a tender moment and resolving to continue their relationship despite societal pressure. Barnum visits his estranged wife, the two also resolving to rebuild a mutually trusting, open relationship. After considerable difficulty finding a bank willing to loan money to rebuild the circus, the recovering Carlyle steps in, offering to use his shared earnings from the show to rebuild it; however, as rebuilding the show in its original location (downtown Manhattan) would be too expensive, Barnum decides to rebuild it as an open-air tent circus by the harbor. The new, rebuilt circus is a great success; Barnum decides to hand over the reins of the show to Carlyle, himself deciding to retire to greater focus on his family and children.
- Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum, an American politician and showman remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
- Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle
- Michelle Williams as Charity Barnum
- Rebecca Ferguson as Jenny Lind
- Zendaya as Anne Wheeler
- Keala Settle as Lettie Lutz
- Paul Sparks as James Gordon Bennett
- Diahann Carroll as Joice Heth
- Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as W. D. Wheeler
- Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Deng Yan
- Austyn Johnson as Caroline Barnum
- Cameron Seely as Helen Barnum
- Fredric Lehne as Mr. Hallet
- Jamie Jackson as Boss
- Will Swenson
- Nicholas Cannone as White Tie Audience (Jenny Lind Performance)/ Upper Society Type
- Cinder Petrichor as Fire Breather
- Natalie Wise as Fire Breather
- Miriam Messer as Fire Breather
- Sasha Gaulin as Fire Breather
- Caoife Coleman as Albino Twin #1
- Mishay Petronelli as Albino Twin #2
Jackman was announced to be starring in the film in 2009 shortly after its announcement. Michael Gracey was hired to direct the film in August 2011. The film originally was supposed to be a biopic without the musical genre attached however after a suggestion by Gracey, the film developed into a musical with songs and dance numbers. Jackman has stated that the seven-year development of the film is partly due to FOX Studios not wanting to take a risk at an original musical.
Rehearsals began in October 2016, in New York City. Principal shooting began on November 22, 2016.
The Greatest Showman was originally scheduled to be released by 20th Century Fox on December 25, 2016. The film was pushed back a year from its original release date of December 25, 2016, to December 25, 2017, to avoid competition with La La Land, another musical.
As of December 25, 2017, The Greatest Showman has grossed $18.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $4.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $22.7 million, against a production budget of $84 million.
In the United States and Canada, The Greatest Showman was released alongside Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and was projected to gross around $21 million from 3,006 theaters over its six-day opening weekend. It made $2.5 million on its first day and $2.1 million on its second. Over the three day weekend it made $8.6 million (a six-day total of $18.6 million), finishing fourth at the box office behind Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Pitch Perfect 3.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 50% based on 139 reviews, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Greatest Showman tries hard to dazzle the audience with a Barnum-style sense of wonder -- but at the expense of its complex subject's far more intriguing real-life story." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 48 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave the film a positive review, writing, "The Greatest Showman is a concoction, the kind of film where all the pieces 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." Richard Roeper of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3/4 stars, saying, "With all that corn and cheese and old-timey sentiment, The Greatest Showman ends up scoring some very timely social arguments. P.T. Barnum himself would have approved the dramatic sleight of hand." Steve Persall of Tampa Bay Times gave the film an 'A', and said, "The Greatest Showman is the feel-good movie the holiday season needs." William Bibbiani of IGN gave The Greatest Showman a score of 7.9/10, and called the film, "wildly entertaining."
Britton Peele of The Dallas Morning News said, "The story is interesting and the beats are well-acted, but it's the musical numbers that make The Greatest Showman." Rebecca Pahle of Film Journal called the film "splashy, fun, crowd-pleasing entertainment." Hugh Armitage of Digital Spy said, "The Greatest Showman is a broad and solid crowd-pleaser. An undemanding spectacle for all the family." Alan Jones of Radio Times called it "A joyously uplifting potpourri of visual resplendence, stylish choreography and solid gold magic, one engineered to approximate the lavish spectacle the movie musical once offered."
Sheila O'Malley of RogerEbert.com gave it 3.5/4, stating 'The Greatest Showman is an unabashed piece of pure entertainment punctuated by memorable songs.' Douglas Davidson of CLTure called the film, "An undeniable spectacle with an infectious soundtrack, a movie that dazzles and delights." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave a 3/4 score and said, 'The film has show-stopping well-choreographed numbers with catchy tunes.' Calvin Wilson of St. Louis Post-Dispatch called the film 'highly enjoyable'
Conversely, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a negative review, criticizing the songs and characters and saying "There’s idiotic, and there’s magnificent, but The Greatest Showman is that special thing that happens sometimes. It’s magnificently idiotic. It’s an awful mess, but it’s flashy. The temptation is to cover your face and watch it through your fingers because it’s so earnest and embarrassing and misguided — and yet it’s well-made." In a negative review for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney wrote "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."
Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars, saying, "How do you cast a virtuoso Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, spare no expense in production values, add a score by Oscar and Tony winners Ben Pasek and Justin Paul and still end up with the shrill blast of nothing that is The Greatest Showman? Ask the first-time director Michael Gracey, who cut his teeth on commercials and music videos without ever mastering the crucial knack of building snippets of musical comedy and drama into a satisfying whole." Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film's failures "are rooted in something deeper: a dispiriting lack of faith in the audience’s intelligence, and a dawning awareness of its own aesthetic hypocrisy. You’ve rarely seen a more straight-laced musical about the joys of letting your freak flag fly."
The sequel for The Greatest Showman is currently in pre-production.