Jackman plays 19th century PT Barnum in a crowd-pleasing if MOR film that paints the circus impresario as a body-positive evangelist for diversity
Hugh Jackman is at his most relatable here in this cheerful fantasy musical, so mainstream it is at the exact centre of the road as if placed there by some impossibly sophisticated scientific implement. The film succeeds in being cheesy and sugary at the same time, and is very loosely based on the life of the legendary showman and inveterate crowd-pleaser Phineas T Barnum, the man who in the 19th century possibly invented entertainment as we know it today.
Another type of movie might seek to draw parallels between the cheeky impresario Barnum – frantically promoting fake or at any rate unreliable news about giants, bearded ladies etc – and another questionable American celebrity of the present day. But this is a Barnum we can all get behind. He’s an entrepreneur, a dreamer, a family man, an idealist, an underdog, a proto-modern evangelist for diversity (he has circus turns of all shapes and sizes) and he’s someone for whom the template for conventional white body image is not the be-all and end-all.