If La La Land’s enormous success proved anything, it’s that show business still loves a good love letter to … show business. This Christmas, 20th Century Fox will try to parlay that fact into box-office success for the upcoming, The Greatest Showman.
The first official trailer for the film arrived today and — over the course of its 2:20 run-time, titular showman P.T. Barnum goes from rags to riches, and the music builds to a crescendo as he unveils “the greatest show on Earth.”
Directing newbie Michael Gracey is helming the film and Hugh Jackman stars as Barnum. Like La La Land, this film is a musical, adding another to a Jackman resume that already includes Oklahoma! and Les Miserables.
While we badly want to be excited about this film, this spot raises a couple of red flags. It teases a kitschy, somewhat juvenile exploration of the life of P.T. Barnum and feels almost like watching an ad for a made-for-TV Disney special. Barnum has a complicated legacy, one that this trailer oversimplifies by eschewing the edgier, more cynical side of the man who famously said things like: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” and “The common man, no matter how sharp and tough, actually enjoys having the wool pulled over his eyes, and makes it easier for the puller.”
Jackman’s romantic reverence for the stage and screen has always been apparent, but it feels like the team behind this film is assuming that the average moviegoer shares his sentiments, which may be a miscalculation. We’re not ready to write this one off by any means, but suffice it to say that the greatest salesman of his day doesn’t have us reaching for our wallets just yet.
For us, the silver lining is the visuals, which are imbued with a level spectacle and splendor befitting of the film’s subject matter. That makes sense as Gracey got his start in visual effects, working on such films as The Magician and Double Vision. This trailer really makes if feel like “all the world’s a stage” and pulls you in almost immediately.
We’ll have to wait and see how this one turns out, but it’s certainly on our radar.
The Greatest Showman also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Zac Efron, and Michelle Williams. It’s set to hit theaters on Christmas Day.