Why’d it Hit? The Greatest Showman (2017)

Kevthewriter sings and dances about Hugh Jackman’s unlikely hit, The Greatest Showman.

On its first weekend, things were not looking good for The Greatest Showman. It got mixed reviews and it opened to $13 million dollars. But something happened. Instead of being buried by all the other December movies, it actually managed to gain momentum and, two months later, it’s still on the box office top 10 (currently it’s #8).  Despite ambivalent reviews, audiences discovered the biographical musical and word of mouth spread, pushing its domestic gross over $160 million dollars.

And…I’m not sure I quite get the appeal. Don’t get me wrong, if you love the movie, great, I’m not trying to say you’re wrong or anything.  I’m just not sure I know why word of mouth saved it from bombing at the box office.  While I will admit it looks beautiful (the sets, choreography, and costumes are top-notch) and it has a lot of energy, the script left me cold. It was just the typical “guy wants to be popular but realizes who his true friends are at the end” story except set in a circus. Plus the characters and their relationships just didn’t ring true. The romance between Zac Efron and Zendaya was rushed and felt like a complete “true love at first sight” type of deal (and I thought movies were done with those types of relationships).

Not only that but the movie tried to have a message of “be who you are” and “don’t judge others for being different” but the circus entertainers are barely treated as people as we know little to nothing about them so all that really stands out about them are their deformities. Therefore it kinda comes off as hypocritical that the movie chastises any of the antagonists for treating these people like freaks when the movie treats them like freaks as their deformities are basically their only real trait. It doesn’t help that, even by the end of the movie, they choose to be in a business that exploits them.

But I think I might have some sort of idea why people loved the movie more than critics did: the songs. While I did appreciate the effort that went into the musicals numbers, I didn’t care much for the songs personally as many of them sounded auto tuned. But I think audiences felt differently and really enjoyed these songs. And, to at least some if not many, the musical numbers were entertaining enough that they were able to salvage the film.

And, to that, I can understand the appeal. Basically, for musicals, whether or not they enjoy the musical numbers will probably dictate a lot of people’s enjoyment for the movie in general. It’s the same thing with other genres like comedies or action films. No matter how good or bad the story is, there’s just gonna be a section of the audience that will judge the film on, well, the main attraction because that’s what they went to the movie for. And I can’t exactly blame people just for seeing it for one thing and one thing alone. After all, if people are going to go see a musical, many are probably just going for the songs and, if they like songs, they’ll like the movie.

Musicals aren’t exactly my favorite genre so, even if I do think the musical numbers are well done, they aren’t really something that will make or break a musical for me but I can understand why it would for musical fans.  If you saw and enjoyed The Greatest Showman, I’d like to hear your comments below. It would be interesting to get another perspective on things from someone who just liked it more (possibly way more) than I did.


Posted on March 8, 2018, in Why'd It hit? and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I intended to see it, but didn’t get around to it. Now, so many more movies come out every week that I will just wait until it comes out on DVD for rental from the Redbox.


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