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The Greatest Showman (2017)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/10/2018

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Review by Stephanie Long, Posted on 4/4/2018

If you watch many movies, you can easily become jaded by seeing what seems like the same plot, ideas, and actors over and over. Pair that with the tumultuous world around us right now, and one can easily see how important it is for filmmakers to be risk takers and create something new and fresh to ease our minds and entertain us as we escape into another world for a few hours of welcome relief. However, an optimistic, vibrant, and touching musical can do the same thing for us- if it is done right. It is hard for most musicals on film to accomplish this feat as they often seem to lose something that is present when they are done live on a stage. A few have been able to accomplish this task such as Grease, Hair Spray, West Side Story, and Chicago. Thankfully, The Greatest Showman, an original musical created for film and not the stage, is up to the task.

The story centers on the life of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and his desire to create entertainment that helps people escape the drudgery of their own lives by experiencing the weird, unusual, and never before seen people and talents often associated with what we now call a freak show. From a young age, P.T. shares a view of his unusual magical world with Charity (Michelle Williams), the daughter of his fatherís client who comes from a wealthy family and is a symbol to young P.T. of the type of wealth and power he wants to attain when he gets older. They fall in love, have two adorable daughters, and the family supports P.T. and his dreams, along with the help later on of Phillip Carlyle (Zac Effron), and a cast of additional characters that help turn an initial museum of oddities into a circus. It is a fairly simple plot, and it selectively uses the highlights of P.T. Barnumís life to tell a linear story of hope, acceptance of those who are different, and following your dreams.

Unfortunately, in real life, P.T. Barnum did some very questionable acts and did treat some people and animals unethically. It can be difficult to overlook this once you have seen the movie and read about his real life. However, the movie itself is so entertaining, the songs so instantly catchy, and the visual presentation so effervescent, that I can set aside my feelings about the real person and just allow myself to gush over how good this movie is! Timing is often everything, and this type of movie couldnít have come at a better time. In addition, the lead actors- Jackman, Williams, and Efron, are so good in their roles, that their likability lifts the movie and pulls the viewer into this shiny version of Barnumís world. The movie stumbles a bit when it introduces Jenny Lind, an opera singer Barnum toured with in real-life to help legitimize his entertainment. Played in the movie by Rebecca Ferguson, the song her character sings is an incredible song, but the implications of romantic feelings between them seems out of character with the rest of the movie.

Overall, The Greatest Showman is a nice mix of traditional and new. The overall setup uses common musical tropes of a little bit of dialogue peppered in between each song to tell a pretty straightforward story. The songs, while they do sound like songs from a musical, also have a poppy undertone that makes them immediately likeable by a wider audience. That is credited to songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who wrote original songs for La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen. In addition, director Michael Gracey presents a visually enticing world of wonder using deeply saturated colors and beautiful shots of choreographed dance numbers that are reminiscent at times of Baz Luhrmanís style if he took Ritalin and lost the frenetic pace of his song and dance numbers from Moulin Rouge but still kept the vibrancy. There is a sweetness and joy to the movie that helps elevate it and entertain the viewer without being overbearing or trying too hard. It satisfies because it entertains and brings us an ideal presentation of what we could be if we learned to accept others and pursue our dreams.

The Greatest Showman isn't just for suckers on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably the bold reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can make out textures on objects and the depth works very well, lending a sense of spectacle to the musical numbers. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the music sounds great, and from the outset, the bass and the detail in the rear channels is impressive. The songs show many layers and we can clearly hear each instrument. The roar of the crowd also fills the rear channels, as well as the front speakers, which also highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The film can also be viewed in "Sing-Along" mode which has enhanced subtitles for the songs.

The Greatest Showman Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Michael Gracey. "The Family Behind The Greatest Showman" (14 minutes) is a nicely detailed making-of featurette which begins with Jackman's performance at the Oscars inspiring the producers. From there we get a detailed look at the rehearsals, the music, and the production. "The Songs" (70 minutes) has Gracey, Composers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, Jackman, and Producer Mark Gordon and others breaking down each of the main songs. From the writing of the song to the shooting of the scene, we learn how each tune was meant to fit into the film. "The Spectacle" (32 minutes) examines the characters, choreography, cinematography, production design, and the film's score, giving us in-depth information on each. There are "Galleries" of Storyboards and Concept Art. Finally, we have two TRAILERS for the film.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long