“Ladies and Gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.” —The Greatest Showman, Opening Lines
If you love movies full of ridiculously talented actors and actresses, dizzyingly beautiful sets, toe-tappingly addictive music, and unbelievably nuanced stories that make you laugh, cry, gasp, and applaud, then go see The Greatest Showman. Even if you don’t love those things, go take someone that does. (You won’t regret your generosity!) If you grew up loving the circus, go see how it started out. If you’re like me and never went to the circus as a child, go and learn something cool. Basically, if you want a good family-friendly movie, this is an excellent choice—yes, even if you don’t like musicals.
The Greatest Showman is so hard to describe. If I explain the storyline to you, you’ll give me a half-hearted nod and probably walk away. That is, unless you absolutely love stories about the poor boy who falls in love with the rich girl, promises her a better life, and eventually achieves it—but at a great cost.
If I wax philosophically about the beautiful themes and powerful images in the movie, you will probably think it’s entirely different than what it is, assuming it’s boring and too stuffy. And both of those would be terrible representations of this beautiful film anyway. So, I’ll distill my thoughts into the two main themes.
The Greatest Showman is loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the genius behind Barnum’s Circus. Hugh Jackman (X-men‘s Wolverine) plays the dreamer, P.T. Barnum. Today’s world tends to stifle our dreams or make us afraid our dreams are unattainable. Barnum never allowed other people’s naysaying stop him. He conquered ridiculous odds—no money, the scorn of the town, picketers and vandals, bad press… The list goes on. He dreamed of a world that was different, and he made it one.
Barnum recruits a young man, Phillip (Zac Effron, High School Musical). Philip has the skill of appealing to the rich and powerful, and he must decide which means more: security or a chance to be full of joy. He had a great job, a cushy inheritance, and the respect of the world. If he throws his lot in with Barnum, he would lose all of that but could discover true joy, love, and fulfillment.
Dreaming becomes dangerous if you forget why you are dreaming in the first place. This is so true in our walk with Christ as well. We are called to go into the world and shake it up, to be different, to stand out. But if we are doing that out of pride, we’ve lost track of why we are doing it in the first place. When we forget why we’re dreaming—in Barnum’s case, it was his family—we end up making life harder for ourselves and end up strangling our dreams.
“I see it in your eyes /
You believe that lie /
That you need to hide your face /
Afraid to step outside /
So you lock the door /
But don’t you stay that way”
—”Come Alive” from The Greatest Showman
Barnum finally makes his mark by bringing together those the world shunned: the bearded lady, a man covered in motley birthmarks, a midget, an extremely overweight man, Siamese twins, black-skinned siblings (in a time when slavery was still rampant), and many, many more. If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and found something that you hate, I think you’ll find a part of yourself on screen in The Greatest Showman. I certainly did!
Regardless of race, creed, ability, appearance, or whatever else you judge yourself on—you are a glorious creation of God, and you are made to OWN that truth. P.T. Barnum’s “freaks” learned to love themselves—even when others gasped in horror, tried to hide them away, called them terrible names, or burned down their homes. They formed a new family and learned to love not just each other but themselves.
Their theme song is called “This is Me.” It’s an anthem about not being ashamed of who you are, and I hope every person hears the song at least once!
The Greatest Showman is a film about following your dreams, loving those close to you, and embracing who you are. It has the added benefit of being ridiculously clean (outside of some costumes that cover about as much as a swimsuit), entirely wholesome, and it has a sensational soundtrack.
The Greatest Showman is worth watching, and, if you can, see it in theaters while it’s there (or on a big screen TV). It was made to be seen big, bold, and loud!
Brianna is a manager at her favorite childhood bookstore. She is likely to be found curled up with a book and her black cat, Bear, talking to a stranger, dancing outside in a thunderstorm, singing Disney songs while making cookies, or snuggling her best friend's baby while drinking coffee. Her heart is fueled by the desire to help people find their unique wings and use them in whatever capacity God has created them for. She is passionate about seeing and finding Christ in the secular world wherever she can.