While we wait for A few words about…™ The Greatest Showman — in Blu-ray

Every one of it's 85 million dollars or so, can be seen on screen. 4 Stars

HTF is a decidedly non-political website. A place where many come to not be involved in politics, so I’m not going to go there.

Not directly, in any case.

But there are words that need to be said.

I’ve been around long enough to have experienced a bit of craziness here and there.

I had a friend who passed away not long away that was there when the first (small) flag was raised on the beach at Iwo Jima.

As I child I questioned precisely what “white only” water fountains, and bathrooms were all about. I found the concept abhorrent then, and continue today, unrelenting.

Although I absolutely supported my friends who made the decision to fight in Viet Nam, I fought against the conflict, and was vocal, marching where necessary and making a communal voice heard.

Our world is getting out of control, and our country isn’t helping to calm the storm.

A film recently opened that seems to have received okay, but not rave reviews, and now, having seen it, I’m beginning to think that part of the problem may be our current political aura.

The Greatest Showman, the early history of P. T. Barnum is about a man who worked to create entertainment, in which people of all sizes, shapes and colors could not only entertain, but bring happiness to an audience.

Our world, at the moment, doesn’t seem to be a happy place toward homogenization of sizes, shapes, nationalities, and possibly most important, still people of different colors.

And The Greatest Showman celebrates just that.

The film is a decidedly visceral experience, and in many ways, pure cinema.

It’s a musical released to a world where many people aren’t prepared to allow singing.

It’s about courage, sharing and humanity.

Many of us have worked long and hard to have nationalities, religions, backgrounds, languages, and colors something that is no longer derisive, but rather presumed, with normalcy, for the good of humanity and the world. Something that allows us to share experiences, and to learn from others.

While The Greatest Showman isn’t Kane or Aurens, it’s a happy place to visit, with wonderful music, great cinematography, and terrific acting. In many ways, a soul-lifting experience. It’s loud, vibrant, stimulating to the psyche, and in the end will make an audience smile.

But in the waning days of 2017, it doesn’t seem to be finding the audience it deserves. And that concerns me.

While our world seems to be floundering, we cannot allow our cinema to drop to the level of continuous super-hero and sci-fi epics that leave us with nothing but a few less dollars in our pockets.

This film is a whirlwind experience, not unlike Moulin Rouge, and a few others, that asks the audience to surrender to the wonders of the cinema, and for a couple of hours, simply leave reality behind.

While we wait for the obvious Blu-ray that will come, hopefully in 4k and Atmos, I would suggest that those who can, get to a theater and share the pure, odd, idiosyncratic joy that Micheal Gracey’s (his directorial debut) film brings. Every one of it’s 85 million dollars or so, can be seen on screen.

Celebrate a world in which size, shape and color become as meaningless as they should be, and allow cinema to reign.

And you’ll love the opening Fox logo.

With apologies…

Stepping down from my soapbox now…

I wish you all a Peaceful, Happy & Healthy 2018.


Published by

Robert Harris



  1. I have the same feeling Robert about the world we live in today. I only went to the theater 5 times this year and most of the trailers i saw were all gloom & doom. Wish for a happy and peaceful 2018 too.

  2. I, myself, do not feel its political to embrace the human spirit or to celebrate the varieties of parcels in which talents are sent from the heavens. The film described is one that I could surely use, myself; and in big, big doses. Thanks all around for this review; as I am going to that nearest theater, today.

  3. While I agree with you 100% regarding today's intolerant climate and I'm as left of center as they come, I must with all due respect disagree with you on The Greatest Showman. It's easily the worst film I've seen in 2017. Should bad movies get a pass because they contain positive and humanitarian views and ideas? I suppose if one considers Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! a high point in film musicals, there's every chance they may embrace The Greatest Showman. The rest of us may not be so forgiving. I won't even go into the calisthenics passing as choreography but I might easily have forgiven the trite (if well intended) narrative if the songs were any good but the anachronistic (the film takes place in the 19th century) songs are all big pop power ballads. I began to feel like I was trapped at auditions for American Idol. When Barnum brings the legendary opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) to New York, does she sing an operatic aria? Of course not, she hammers us over the head with another big pop power ballad in a non operatic American Idol voice (Ferguson is dubbed by Loren Allred). There's not a moment in this big bombastic elephant that equals the simplicity and grace of Ryan Gosling quietly singing City Of Stars in La La Land. No surprise, the film's director Michael Gracey is from the world of music videos.

    Apologies for "hijacking" your thread.

  4. PMF

    Love ya, Thomas T; but I'm still going…and today !!!

    Oh, I would never ever dissuade anyone from seeing a movie 🙂 Just throwing out my 2 cents. Just because I hated it doesn't mean you (or anyone else) will. I love musicals and I was so looking forward to this one 🙁 Guess I'll have to wait for Mamma Mia 2 this summer for my next musical fix.

  5. Mr Harris, I didn’t consider your review as political, but as championing basic human rights and the equality of all – a concept not only established within international law, but especially enshrined in the founding documents of your own nation – a chief reason that so many outsiders, myself included, continue to hold your country and its values in great esteem, in spite of the vagaries of transient governance.

    I do hope that the sentiments you expressed are not removed or censored, and am most grateful that you shared them …and within appropriate context.

    My family will be seeing this film in the theatre at the earliest opportunity.

  6. Honestly, the reason this film is not high on my "to-do list" has nothing to do with its wonderful themes of inclusion, and everything to do with that the songs are written by songwriters whose previous work I did not enjoy in the least. I was interested in seeing this when the trailer began, but they lost me by the end with the revelation of who the authors were.

    If anyone does see this and comes away with the impression that the songs are above and beyond better than anything the songwriting team has done prior, I'll consider reconsidering 🙂

  7. I think some of the problems people have with it are that the film is very much "based upon" the life of P.T. Barnum and glosses over most of his shortcomings. Now, I'm not one who feels that all films based upon historical figures need to be 100% accurate, especially Musicals. Films are entertainment, first and foremost. For some people, though, it's a sticking point.

    I also don't think that Fox did the film any favors with its marketing. For the longest time, there wasn't really any way to know from the trailers and other advertising that it was even a Musical. The lousy marketing combined with many in the film press badmouthing it long before it was released led to the expected underwhelming performance at the box office.

    Star Wars hasn't helped, either. Since Star Wars films reach across all demographics, any film would have a hard time when coming up against it for limited box office dollars.

    Robert, you aren't alone in your opinions. I've read several similar opinions from more level-headed critics. Sadly, I don't think the film will ever make back its investment and studios will point to it as "proving" that musicals written specifically for the screen are not bankable unless they're animated. It's a shame, but I also think that it, perhaps, wasn't the best subject material for a new musical and for the style of songs that were written for it.

  8. With all due respect, Mr Harris, as someone and whose work I admire greatly, I think you're just a little off course. Hollywood has been shoveling a liberal agenda down our throats for a generation, and people are just tired of it. So many of the films coming out today are just crap. Crap acting, crap pulsating comic book action soundtracks and unoriginal crap stories. And my all-time favorite: crap shaky cam.

    I respect your political views and the choices you made during Viet Nam, and I agree that we all need to get beyond labels, embrace humanity and learn to get along. However, there are some groups out there who relish in labels and want people to bend to thir agenda. As I said a moment ago, many regular Americans are just fed up with it, and this is reflected in news this week that Hollywood attendence/revenue is at a 22-year low. That can't all be blamed on race/gender/politics.

    Hugh Jackman is one of my favorite actors, and The Greatest Showman might be delightful escapism, but the reason I'm not going to see it is because I was completely turned off by the traliers. The subject matter, the awful songs and the 21st Century poptart dialogue seems entirely out of place in a story set in the 19th Century.

    We can agree to disagree, but I think the lacklust performance of The Greatest Showman has more to do with low-quality work coming out of Hollywood than political agendas.


    Hollywood attendence/revenue is at a 22-year low. That can't all be blamed on race/gender/politics.

    I think a larger portion of that can be attributed to falling presentation standards, rising costs, and ease of availability in finding alternate viewing choices.

    My local theater charges $16.50 for a standard 2D ticket, $20 for RealD 3D, $24 for Dolby Cinema and $27 for IMAX 3D. Two years ago, that IMAX ticket was only $19. That's a huge jump for a short period of time.

    Meanwhile, if I wait 2-3 months, I will be able to buy this movie on a disc with quality equal to or superior to the theatrical presentation for the same or less than the cost of a single ticket. Or, I could rent it on iTunes/Vudu for about $4 then. Or, I could wait an extra month and see it on Netflix for free.

    Or, if I didn't care about intellectual property rights and didn't want to wait, I could probably find a high quality bootlegged version to watch at home tonight.

    I'd say those factors, more so than the politics of the day, are the cause of declining box office figures.

  10. There is no liberal agenda in Hollywood. But there is still a thing called freedom of expression and film has always been a great vessel for that. Everything on the page and screen cannot reflect what one person or group’s idea should be. Hopefully it will stay that way.

    RE: The Greatest Showman. I’d like to see it but I will probably end up just getting the disc. Too many films too see now and not enough time. It is not like it used to be when films had a longer theatrical run. Now it seems like films are gone before you know it.

  11. My problem with this movie is based on the trailers I’ve seen and the history I’ve grown up with. I have always thought (and I’ll be blunt with my words) is that Barnum used the unusual among us and put them in Freak Shows. They were presented as Freaks and treated that way. Audiences did not pay money to show they were inclusive. They were there to gawk.

    The trailers seemed to say that Barnum gave them happy lives whereas I’ve always thought he exploited them. Any happiness they obtained was because they were with those that were like themselves. Family.

    It is this basic lie that keeps me away from the movie. Now if someone knows the movie is different or my history is wrong, please let me know.

  12. Johnny Angell

    It is this basic lie that keeps me away from the movie. Now if someone knows the movie is different or my history is wrong, please let me know.

    The film is designed as an "entertainment" and has as much to do with the real Barnum as a Big Mac has to do with a real hamburger. It's highly fictionalized and designed to make us feel good. It's not a fact based documentation of the real P.T. Barnum.

  13. Thanks, Robert! I would LOVE to go see 'The Greatest Showman'. But, alas, my wife and I got the flu last week and we are still recovering and suffering from a persistent cough. I will not go to a movie theater and ruin other people's experience by sitting there coughing (even if infreuquent).

    Hopefully we'll be over this cough by next week and we can enjoy this film in a local theater. For now, we are enjoying a steady diet of Blu-rays at home.


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