8 Things Parents Should Know About ‘The Greatest Showman’

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Hollywood’s latest musical extravaganza, The Greatest Showman, opens in theaters nationwide today. Read on to see if you should take the kids.

1. What is it about?

The Greatest Showman is an original musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It follows him from his youth, homeless on the streets of New York, to his founding of his eponymous circus and subsequent rise to fame.

2. What’s it rated?

The movie is rated PG for “thematic elements including a brawl.” This is, honestly, one of the more head-scratching ratings I’ve seen in awhile. The movie has no language. In fact, I don’t think anyone even says “damn.” It doesn’t even hint at nudity or sex. In fact, early in the movie, Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) and his wife (played by Michelle Williams) are at one moment moving into their apartment and singing and dancing, and in the very next she’s very, very pregnant. That’s how that works, right?

So yes, there is a brawl. But, like everything else in the movie, it’s as much a choreographed dance as anything else. Some punches are thrown, but you’ll see more violence in the G-rated Olaf’s Frozen Adventure than in this movie.

3. Will I like it?

That’s tough to say. I’ll admit that I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s one of those musicals where much of the story is told through normal dialog, but then every now and then for no good reason the cast breaks out in song. That can work, but not when the songs take up so much time that there isn’t really space to properly develop the characters. And that definitely happens here. A lot. Plus, the songs just aren’t that great.

4. Will the kids like it?

Teens probably will, as long they’re into musicals and aren’t too bothered watching something that asks more questions than it answers. As I said above, there’s nothing at all offensive in the movie, so your only real concern with taking the kids is keeping them from getting bored.

5. How long is it?

The movie is only 1 hour, 45 minutes long. Which, normally, is a good thing. I’ve often complained about how needlessly long movies tend to be these days. But in this case, I wouldn’t have minded an additional 15 minutes or so of this movie if they had spent that time making the characters into real humans that we might care about.

6. When can I sneak out to the restroom?

The movie is short enough that, hopefully, you won’t need to, but if you do, you can leave during pretty much any song. They don’t do much to advance the story, and they aren’t so great as to make you wish you’d stuck around to listen.

7. Does the movie have a bigger message it’s trying to tell?

Yes, and it’s not at all subtle about it. In this highly fictionalized account, Barnum came up from nothing, at one point living alone on the streets, but through sheer force of will made something of himself, even marrying the daughter of the wealthy family his father once worked for. But more than that, he decides to pull others up with him.

This idea of a group of outsiders banding together to stick it to “the man” (in this case, upper-class 19th century New York snobs) is the core of the story, but while it’s very obvious that the movie is trying to craft a message about not judging people by their background or experience, it fails pretty spectacularly. Most of the people Barnum brings into his circus are never developed into real characters, including Tom Thumb, perhaps the most famous of all of them. He and the Bearded Lady are at least slightly fleshed out, but the only other character of note from the circus is a trapeze artist played by Zendaya whose only “abnormality” is that she’s black and falls for a white guy. But none of these characters are given sufficient screen time to become real humans the audience might actually care about.

8. Is there anything after the credits?

Yes, at the end of the credits, Captain America comes out and… oh, wait. Sorry. Wrong movie. There’s nothing in this one.

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