Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Greatest Showman Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
If, like me, you’ve forgotten that Zac Efron can sing – The Greatest Showman is here to remind you. The musical about P.T. Barnum and the origins of the circus, is now available to own on various formats. Although I was not fortunate enough to receive a 4K UHD copy to review, I could not be more pleased with the Blu-ray. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song and was nominated for other Golden Globes and Academy Awards. 

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Phineas Taylor Barnum (Hugh Jackman) didn’t come from money. His father was a tailor and brought P.T. along on a job where he met young Charity. To say P.T. was from the wrong side of the tracks would be an understatement. He corresponded with Charity and years later, he returned to claim her. Charity’s (Michelle Williams) father did not approve as P.T. had nothing to offer. Lovestruck, money didn’t matter and Charity and P.T. started a life together. Soon they had two young daughters but not much else. 

When Barnum lost his job, he realized that he was not providing the life he promised his wife or the one he wanted for his daughters. He took a big chance and opens Barnum’s American Museum. When sales are down, his daughters point out that their father needs something alive, like a mermaid or a unicorn. While he can’t put those in his show, the children aren’t wrong and soon the show is full of living attractions. 

Barnum signs on the dog faced boy, the bearded woman with the voice of an angel, as well as the world’s tallest and fattest men. The oddities in his show also include an African American trapeze act and a little person, whose mother has pretended not to have a son. These people are not used to being out in the open and they suddenly appear for sold out crowds. To help gain acceptance amongst society, Barnum partners with playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) who instantly falls in love with trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). 

The heavy man is fat but stuffs his shirt with a pillow and the tall man is tall but wears stilts. The bearded lady’s beard is certainly real but P.T. exaggerates the unique characteristics whenever necessary to draw a crowd. Wanting to finally give an audience something truly real, he partners with singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). On reputation alone he books a show in New York and then sends her on an expensive tour without talking to his partner. The circus performers are often unwelcome in their own homes and have become a tight night family. They don’t appreciate P.T.’s new venture and are hurt when he tries to keep them out of her spotlight. Soon P.T.’s marriage and career are all in jeopardy. 

In this film, Barnum has problem after problem and each issue is dealt with by spontaneously breaking out into song. That’s usually why I don’t like musicals but in this case it worked for me. The film is designed to make you feel for P.T., his family and every performer in his show. It makes me laugh to read reviews that complain about that very fact. Isn’t every drama designed to make you feel for its characters? You can see the race issues coming from a mile away and that doesn’t bother me either. The songs are amazing, the sets are impressive and the story is so much more interesting than I expected. Thankfully there are no amazing actors butchering their vocals, everyone can hold their own in this musical. Its laughable that I forgot about Zac Efron’s High School Musical days, but I did and it took this film to remind me that he sure can sing. If you’re actually a fan of musicals I’d expect this to knock your socks off. If you happen to be grumpier than I am (usually), then go ahead and skip it and all things with heart. 
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
The Greatest Showman is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in a 2.40:1 ratio Fox Home Entertainment can be very proud of this transfer. This is one of those films with amazing, dynamic sets with layers to look at. It’s a period piece, but also a circus. The costumes show incredible detail. There are not just dark, but sets lit by only lanterns. In even these low light conditions, clarity is excellent. There are clearly computer generated backgrounds and they have a soft glow that makes the whole thing feel magical. The color pallete is rich and has a broad range. I saw no compression issue or unexpected visual noise. 
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
The Greatest Showman is not only a musical but one that features some very strong vocals. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix rises to the task and adequately supports the soundtrack. Stomping feet add to the heart of some songs and you’ll feel that with the right audio system. The opening song seemed perfectly balanced in the theater but the spoken word was a bit hard to hear at home. That was literally my only complaints, and certainly not enough to take the score down from the perfect 5 out of 5. 
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
Although the list of supplemental features was shorter than I had expected, I enjoyed what they did provide. 
  • The Family Behind The Greatest Showman (14:05) This featurette includes cast and crew interviews with cast and crew, as well as a table read and Academy Award rehearsal. 
  • The Songs (1:10:07) Each tune has its own featurette in this musical extra. 
  • The Spectacle (32:12) A look at the production and choreography. 
  • Galleries (with available automatic advance and timing options) 
    • Concept Art 
    • Storyboards 
  • Music Machine (56:14) Go directly to each song in the film, with a Sing Along option. 
  • Sing Along (1:44:49) For the music theater geeks (said lovingly), watch the entire film in subtitled Sing Along mode. 
  • Audio Commentary by Michael Gracey – An informative feature length commentary by the first time Director. 
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
From what I've heard firsthand, friends have either loved or hated this movie as there doesn't seem to be a middle ground. I didn’t care how accurate it was to the real man’s life and I didn’t do any research to find out about it, because I like this version. But I do know for a fact that the real P.T. Barnum did not look anything like Hugh Jackman and I’m willing to overlook that fact. The Blu-ray is technically excellent with some fun special features. I even enjoyed the sing-alongs that I would never sing along to. Recommended.

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