The Greatest Showman (PG)
The second the movie opens we're thrown into a big song-and-dance number, where Barnum (Jackman) sashays and spins through a circus ring, adored by his also-dancing "freaks." And then that segues right into another song-and-dance number, where young Barnum (Ellis Rubin) is the poor son of a tailor trying to charm a little rich girl named Charity (Skylar Dunn). Then that turns into a montage of little Barnum writing letters to Charity, caring for his dying father, and stealing bread to survive, before joining a traveling circus and returning to propose to Charity. There's no breathing room between scenes, no respite where we can assess story or character. We're bombarded by pop ballads that demand we simultaneously look up at the sky but also close our eyes and dream. There are things to like. Zac Efron is infuriatingly talented. Efron (as Phillip Carlyle) and Jackman both radiate an impishness and glimmer. In another Efron number, Carlyle is paired with a trapeze artist named Anne Wheeler, a character based on Anita Hemmings and played by Zendaya, who swoops down on a rope to meet Carlyle, only to see her fly away again. It's lovely choreography, a genuinely thrilling moment in a film that's mostly Cirque du So Lame.