One look at the trailer and I knew I wasn’t going to like this film – and I don’t mean casual, can live without, ambivalent dislike.
I mean anger raging, steaming coming out of ears, hating myself for still sitting there when the credits rolled levels of dislike.
Did you see the bloody thing? Just two and a half minutes was enough to make me take a diabetes test, so sweet and saccharine was the singing and the dancing and the loving and the blah blah blah.
So, naturally, fully aware of my aversion to enforced jollity and general fun, The Good Lady Popcorn decided this was the only film we could possibly go and see….
And it’s about bloody P. T. Barnum for crying out loud. The man who made it his life’s work forcing people to enjoy themselves.
Singing and dancing.
With Hugh Jackman.
Basically a Les Mis and La La Land mash-up.
Why would you do it to yourself?
“No, you don’t have to, you can go watch something else and I’ll see you afterwards…”
Yeah, right, we all know the rules. No way that doesn’t come back and bite me on the butt.
So there we are. Lights down, film rolling, generally wondering about our life choices and how it all came to this….
…then, 100 minutes later, we leave, still humming the songs and wondering if the soundtrack is available.
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED????
Well, I’ll tell you…
For a start, the songs are just damn good. They’re infectious. Catchy. Foot-tapping. They grab you right in the feels.
Then there’s the cast.
Jackman as Barnam is just brilliant – the sod can sing, dance, act, have fun and transmit the fun he’s having right through the camera and off the screen.
Then there’s Michelle Williams. Woefully underused, but still able to steal every scene she’s in.
Then there’s some young chancer called Zac Efron who manages to not be annoying, Rebecca Ferguson is simply stunning, Zendaya is understated – and the whole thing is just a big ball of fun.
The story is simple – man has mad idea, carries out mad idea, more mad stuff happens, big finale – but it’s brought to life with such passion and enthusiasm you can’t help but be swept along.
It also helps that the songs are both very modern in their stylings but also have half a foot in someone else’s camp.
(The tune with Jackman and Efron is basically Panic! At The Disco, Ferguson gets to play Adele)
And this is just one of the many things that make it work.
It’s well written, well filmed, well acted, and, well, a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Where La La Land fell down was it felt contrived, it was trying too hard.
Showman, however, has mastered the trick of acting like it doesn’t care.
All those involved are having fun, and if you do as well – well that’s just an added bonus.
But in a world of forced emotions, or harrowing tales, or superheroes, or Saw films, a movie that is just a pleasure to enjoy is a rare thing and one to be cherished.
It’s not high drama or high art, but who cares when you find yourself singing the songs three days later.
(Yes, we’ve ordered the soundtrack)