I took my kids to see The Greatest Showman the other night because I wasn’t about to take them to the giant steaming turd that is The Last Jedi. Actually, this represents the second time a Star Wars movie has been released that I didn’t take my kids to, because I didn’t take them to Rogue One either (the kids did eventually watch it on video and made me shut it off). I bring up the Star Wars films in the context of Greatest Showman because the two films were released at approximately the same time and have nearly exactly inverse ratings on rottentomatoes.com.
As of this writing, The Greatest Showman is sitting at a 55% critical rating and a 90% audience score, while The Last Jedi is at a 90% critical rating and a 55% audience score. Is the Greatest Showman a critical masterpiece? Of course not, it’s got all kinds of faults, particularly the effort to turn P.T. Barnum into Mary Poppins. Predictably there’s no song and dance routine titled “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute” and yes…there probably should be. So honestly, I’m not too upset with the criticisms of reviewers, and the predictable approval of the audience. It’s actually about how it should be. What I think is odd is how the critics can somehow see the flaws of a film like The Greatest Showman, when they proved themselves to be utterly blind to the equally obvious errors of The Last Jedi. This is just another piece in the increasingly large pool of evidence that suggest professional critics are, at the best, insincere, and at the worst completely bought and paid for.
The reality is that I have a major problem with professional critics of all forms of art and literature. This is very much a game of privilege and at the highest levels, individuals associated with this industry are more concerned with maintaining their status than providing any kind of reasonable contribution. I have a degree in English literature myself (yes, I am extremely privileged and entitled…I can admit it), and I got so fed up with the pompous, baseless attitude of the English department that I picked up a minor in Physics during my last year of schooling just to get away from them (plus, it occurred to me that I needed something that might actually be marketable someday).
Let’s just come out and say it, the study of literature, and the arts in general, is a total joke. There’s no consistency. They’re like a Sommelier who gives a wine a perfect rating, only to try the exact same wine five minutes later to rate it as pig swill. It’s not an honest business. People aren’t held accountable and in the effort to “sound smart” individuals make up the most inane arguments that are then NOT universally applied. Look people, unless you have a common standard, you can’t possibly evaluate things (that’s something I learned in my Physics classes…which actually taught me more about literature than the lit classes did).
The Greatest Showman is the type of thing you can bring the kids to because it’s a musical. For some reason, Hugh Jackman always gets cast in these types of films even though there are certainly people who can sing better and probably people who can dance better (in fairness, Hugh Jackman does have a great set of abs, second only to my own). Jackman always seems really psyched about being in a film like this, so it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle. Zac Efron is in this as well. Efron is so boring you forget he exists until he turns up in another film and then you’re like, “oh yeah, Zac Efron exists.” But he doesn’t ruin the movie, he’s sort of a Hayden Christensen (did you know that all the prequels have higher audience scores than “Last Jedi”?).
The Greatest Showman kind of plays out like Moulin Rouge (except Ewan McGreggor can sing better than Hugh). There’s a lot of color and very well choreographed dances and there’s kind of a sinister undertone that’s watered down for the kids…and for the most part the kids enjoy it. More importantly, the film is a singular vision from start to finish, and that alone makes it better than Jedi. Plus, they don’t needlessly kill Luke Skywalker (spoiler alert). To put it differently, I left Greatest Showman satisfied thinking, “that was a decent flick.” After Jedi, I went out into the cold snow and threw up green milk.
Look, critics, I get it, you like to hammer popular movies so that you look smart and you are able to convince yourself that you didn’t waste all that money you spent on your stupid degree. That’s fine. But rip on Last Jedi too, particularly if you’re going to rip on something honestly crowd pleasing like The Greatest Showman. By the way, I think Showman is certainly a film you should watch on the big screen. It’s got a lot of spectacle, music and colors, and the big screen is the best place to see it. The best place to watch The Last Jedi, is on a mobile phone carefully tucked away in your jacket pocket while you’re at a theater watching The Greatest Showman.