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Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Jackman’

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and his band of oddities

“THE GREATEST SHOWMAN” My rating: B-

105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

The most memorable utterance attributed to P.T. Barnum — “There’s a sucker born every minute”  — appears nowhere in the original film musical “The Great Showman.”

This is understandable. The quote is thick with contempt/condescension for the everyday idiot.  Michael Gracey’s film, on the other hand, is all about openness and a childlike sense of wonder.

Ostensibly a biography of the 19th-century con man and entertainment entrepreneur, “The Greatest Showman” is a passion project from Aussie actor Hugh Jackman, who has long wanted to tackle the role. (Aside from subject matter, the film is in no way related to the fine 1980 Broadway musical “Barnum.”)

The real Barnum was a wart of a fellow and a self-proclaimed “humbugger,'” certainly not the dashing charmer we get in this production. But then “The Greatest Showman” has been conceived and executed not as history or actual biography but as a colorful commentary on dreaming big and embracing diversity.

The characters are paper thin and the historic details iffy (there appear to be electric lights in a house in the 1850s, the women’s costumes are all over the place).

But it is undeniably entertaining, especially in several of the musical numbers and in a garish presentational approach that reminds of Baz Luhrmann’s work on “Moulin Rouge,” with maybe a touch of Bob Fosse-inspired choreography thrown in for good measure.

Zendaya

We follow the rise of Jackman’s Barnum from struggling shipping company clerk to national prominence. He woos and wins a wealthy young woman (Michelle Williams), in the process alienating her family, who find his work very low class.

He buys a run-down museum in NYC and goes on a world-wide hunt to stock it with human and animal oddities. Before long Barnum can claim among his attractions the world’s smallest man, Tom Thumb, a bearded lady (Keala Settle), Siamese twins, the Dog Boy, the Tattooed Man and  a fellow with three legs.

Far from presenting Barnum as an exploiter of these unfortunates, the film depicts him as a father figure who creates an outcast clan whose members band together for mutual support in defiance of a cruel world.

(more…)

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Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton

Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton

“EDDIE THE EAGLE”  My rating: B- 

 144 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

In the movies, a great story trumps just about every other consideration.

“Eddie the Eagle” is a stolidly inartistic effort burdened with washed-out cinematography, just-OK special effects and a faux-Vangelis soundtrack.

But the more-or-less real-life yarn it tells is such a laugh-inducing, lump-in-the-throat-producing audience pleaser that criticism is beside the point.

The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, gave us the Jamaican bobsled team, subject of the 1993 film “Cool Runnings.” But another oddity of those games was Eddie Edwards, a geeky Brit who showed up as the sole member of his country’s ski jumping team.

Eddie, who had taken up the sport only a year earlier, was clearly out of his league competing against the world’s best. But his goofball personality and obvious love of the sport won over the crowds, who dubbed him Eddie the Eagle and made him a celebrity.

In Dexter Fletcher’s film, Eddie is played by Taron Egerton, who in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” played the street punk who becomes a sophisticated James Bond-ish spy. Here he’s virtually unrecognizable, hiding behind a blond mop, bottle-bottom eyeglasses and an expression of earnest bewilderment.

Far from being a suave secret agent, Egerton’s Eddie is more like Forrest Gump. He’s not feeble-minded, exactly, but he’s childlike enough to believe that dreams come true. And just bright (and lucky) enough to figure out how to get there.

The screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton plays fast and loose with the facts of Eddie Edwards’ life and quest for Olympic immortality. What it gets right, though, is their subject’s never-say-die determination.

In a brief prologue we see Eddie as a boy with “weak knees” and a leg brace that squeaks with every step. Despite a near-total lack of athletic ability, he obsesses about competing in the Olympics. (more…)

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