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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • How did Barnum feel about Lind? Was it all business to him, were his bright smiles on the side of the stage just him marveling at her singing? Or was he really falling for her, despite being married and with children? Lind certainly assumed it to be the latter, but during her first overt overture to him, he is clearly uncomfortable and says he should go, which she takes badly, though this comes after Barnum and Jenny lean in for a Near Kiss. Barnum's wife on the other hand believes him when he said he was never having an affair with Lind, she was angry at him for getting too caught up in trying to be famous.
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    • Was Barnum saving Carlyle representative of his devotion to the circus over his family or was it just a good deed that he did for his friend?
    • Carlyle letting go of Anne's hand when his parents look at them may have less to do with his bowing to societal pressure and more to do with the fact that they're living in a time period where anti-miscegenation laws were the norm and interracial relationships between white and black people were actually illegal in many placesnote . In the context of the film, it's the former, however.
  • Award Snub: Many people felt that "This is Me" should have won for Best Original Song at the 90th Oscars after it lost to "Remember Me" from Coco.
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  • Awesome Music: The songs were written by the guys who did La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen, with "This Is Me" winning Best Song at the Golden Globes.
  • Cliché Storm:
  • Critical Dissonance: Critics have overall been very mixed about the film, with a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 48 Metacritic score, mostly for straying really far from the actual history. The general audience, on the other hand, overall has a very positive view of the film; with an 8.0 score on IMDB, an "A" rating on Cinemascore, and a 90% Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also became a surprise hit, grossing over $400 million worldwide.
  • Ear Worm:
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    • "The Greatest Show"
      It's everything you ever want
      It's everything you ever need
      And it's here right in front of you
      This is where you wanna be
    • "Come Alive"
      Come alive, come alive
      Go and ride your light
      Let it burn so bright
      Reaching up to the sky
      And it's open wide — you're electrified!
    • "This Is Me"
      Look out 'cause here I come
      And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
      I'm not scared to be seen
      I make no apologies
      This is me
    • "The Other Side"
      Right here, right now
      I put the offer out
      I don't want to chase you down
      I know you see it
      You run with me
      And I can cut you free
    • "From Now On"
      From! Now! On!
      These eyes will not be blinded by the lights!
      From! Now! On!
      What's waited 'til tomorrow starts tonight!
      It starts tonight
      Let the promise in me start
      Like an anthem in my heart!
      From now on!
    • "Tightrope"
      Hand in my hand
      And we promised to never let go
      We're walking a tightrope
      High in the sky
      We can see the whole world down below
      We're walking a tightrope
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The film was moderately successful in its native United States, but in the United Kingdom (and Ireland, to a lesser extent), it's become THE definition of a musical done right, and no words can even begin to describe how much of an impact the film has left on its public.
    • Firstly, while the critical consensus in the United States was mainly mixed, in the United Kingdom, it was universally praised by critics and audiences alike for its groundbreaking plot, choreography and especially the Awesome Music.
    • Then, it performed exceptionally well at the UK box-office, despite initially opening at #3. Nevertheless, because of the praise received for the movie, cinema-goers allowed its to reach #1 on weekend six, in the process causing a 7.3% rise from the previous weekend. It managed to stay in the top 5 films in the UK and Ireland until it finally dropped out in its thirteenth weekend. In the end, it grossed around $64.3 million (£49.4 million), much higher than all but three films released in 2017note !
    • Next we have the soundtrack album. Saying it was an extraordinary success in the United Kingdom is a complete understatement. After being released, it went straight to the top of the UK Albums Chart and stayed there for eleven consecutive weeks, having the longest broken run at #1 for an album since Adele's 21 in 2011. Then, it continued to linger in the top 5 for many more months, even recapturing the #1 spot for Christmas 2018. After a whole year and twenty-seven non-consecutive weeks at #1, it became the biggest-selling album of 2018 in the UK, outsold the US in terms of copies, and had the longest non-consecutive streak at the top position in 50 years. And it's still in the top 5 as of April 2019!
    • And did we mention the sheer successes of the songs within the album? Eight of them charted in the UK top 100 chart, with five in the top 40 and three in the top 20. The highest-charting of the lot, "This Is Me", peaked at #3 in the UK while in the US, it only reached #58. This lead it to become the fourth biggest single of the year over there. This was followed by "Rewrite the Stars" at #16 and "The Greatest Show" at #20. The "re-imagined" album, featuring covers of the film's songs by contemporary artists, was equally successful as six of the songs charted in the top 100 (with another, "This Is Me" as covered by Kesha, charting at #54 in Scotland) with two in the top 20: James Arthur and Anne-Marie's "Rewrite the Stars" at #7 and P!nk's "A Million Dreams" at #11. These songs are still receiving radio airplay, by the way.
    • The soundtrack eventually made headlines in January 2019 when, after 28 weeks at #1, it had spent more weeks at the top spot on the albums chart than all but one album by The Beatlesnote . Even Hugh Jackman himself was rendered speechless at this unthinkable achievement.
  • Glurge: The film being this is why it's extremely divisive. It's an Oscar Bait, Very Loosely Based on a True Story pop musical that whitewashes P.T. Barnum into a Lovable Rogue who follows his dreams, celebrates diversity, and makes money by organizing a circus that toplines society's differently-abled and/or odd-looking outcasts. The antagonists range from a Straw Critic to dyed-in-the-wool bigots, but the lesson Barnum ends up learning is not to aim for "respectability" when he tries to break into upper-crust society and forgets about the needs of his troupe and family. Those who don't like the movie see it as phony and manipulative, particularly with its platitudes about acceptance and pride as they are undercut by the film not letting the audience get to know the circus performers as individuals and instead focusing the bulk of the narrative on the White Male Lead and his redemption, with its choice of villains shaming the viewer into not questioning/analyzing what they're watching lest they be seen as enemies of joy and diversity.
  • Heartwarming Moments: At the end of the film, Phineas leaves the new show to attend his daughters' ballet recital, arriving on Jumbo the Elephant just to make his daughters squeal.
  • She Really Can Act:
    • Zendaya is not just showcased for her singing, and manages to portray a lot of subtle emotion — often just through facial expressions alone.
    • A different example with Michelle Williams, whose acting talents were not in doubt. But rather she shocked everyone with her singing, prompting a few people wondering if it was really her.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Hollywood Homely: Aside from their one deformity (being a bearded lady, a dwarf, albinos, having a third leg, etc.), the circus troupe is mostly average looking to attractive, people who for the most part no one would really bat an eye at if it wasn't for their one physical trait. Some of them don't even have a physical trait that makes them "ugly", they just dress a bit weird (the tattooed guy, the bald black lady, the samurai all come to mind). The only possible exception is Charles, whose physical trait isn't something you could easily take away and he'd look much more attractive. But even then, one could make an argument even that he could be considered Ugly Cute.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: The songs and staging/choreography of said songs were a huge reason the movie was successful and, if you were to ask most people why they liked the movie, the songs and production design would be one reason why.
  • Moe: Little Caroline is just adorable whenever she dances. And of course the fact that her peers look down on her only makes her more endearing.
  • Narm Charm: The way The Tattooed Irishman is dressed, it's hard not to expect him to shout at some point "THIS IS SPARTA!"
  • Older Than They Think: Did you know that the Siamese twins, who appear in non-speaking parts in this movie, actually headlined a musical of their own?
  • One-Scene Wonder: The bartender with the large 1880's baseball mustache (played by Daniel Campos, who was the assistant choreographer) while Barnum tries to convince Carlyle into joining the circus as they sing "The Other Side" doesn't say a single word — and still manages to nearly steal the scene. Critics have singled him out as a highlight of choreography, even in negative reviews of the film.
  • Signature Scene: Every musical number can be defined by one or two shots of the video:
    • The spinning embrace in "Rewrite the Stars".
    • The transition from the streets to the ring in "This is Me".
    • The Oner at the end of the movie.
  • Signature Song: "This is Me", to the point that it got a Golden Globe award for Best Original Song and numerous fan covers along with comments on Youtube explaining how much this song means to them.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • During This is Me, Tom/Charles disappears and re-appears throughout the scene, especially when the characters start dancing, to hide the fact that, as the actor is spending the movie on his knees and has a pair of knees digitally inserted to make him look even shorter, he can't really dance like everyone else can. He does dance a little bit in From Now On but his dancing is limited to swaying his arms back and forth and kicking his "legs" a few times while everyone else performs much more complex looking dance steps. The movie even seems to be trying to hide the limitations this effect has on his dancing in this scene by hiding him behind a pole in a couple shots. And, in Come Alive, he's too busy riding on the horse while everyone else dances, most likely again to hide the fact that, yeah, the effect they used to make him look shorter makes him unable to do much dancing.
      • The limitations of the effects they used for Charles show throughout the movie, even outside of dancing. He mostly just stands or walks throughout his entire screentime and it seems like the filmmakers try to avoid having him do any physical activity as much as possible. During the fire scene, he's briefly shown being carried out of the circus rather than just running out, Come Alive shows him being picked up and put on the horse by Barnum, instead of jumping onto the horse while standing on, say, a box, to most likely make something easier for the animators to animate (as they would just have to animate his legs), and he doesn't take part in the fight scene with the circus troupe and the protestors, so they wouldn't have to have him fight on his legs. Even when he does do some physical activity, the effects to make it look like he's doing those activities are obvious. When he rides on the horse, he suddenly becomes taller for a second, as the actor's real legs are probably being shown. When he's riding on the baby elephant, not only is the elephant obviously CGI but he's entirely CGI as well (not helped by the fact that, when he's laughing in the scene, it's pretty obvious his laughing was added in post). And when he's bending down to sit on Barnum's hat or serving drinks, Charles is obscured in darkness, to probably hide how unconvincing him bending down would look if you could see him more clearly. Also, in a non-CGI case, Charles drops the deep voice when singing This is Me and suddenly has a higher pitched voice, as that's most likely Sam's real singing voice.
    • Some of the animals, like the lions and elephants, are obviously CGI. The Horse Charles rides on in particular looks like the Tristar Horse.
    • A lot of the circus troupe members, not just Tom Thumb, don't look particularly convincing. The Bearded Lady's beard is obviously pasted onto her face, the three legged man's third leg is just a fake wooden leg that doesn't even move (and is hidden in most of the shots he's in, most likely to hide how unconvincing it looks), the siamese twins are just two asian actors who have their arms around their shoulders all the time, and most of the other troupe members, besides the albinos, are just able bodied people dressed in weird costumes. The only troupe members whose oddities look fake and can get away with it are the fat guy and the tall guy, as the movie itself shows Barnum made them look taller and/or fatter by having the tall guy stand on stilts and the fat guy stuff things in his shirt to make him look bigger.
      • Averted with The Dog Boy and The Old Lady Barnum meets at the beginning, whose deformities actually do look convincing. The albinos also don't look so bad because they are played by people who actually have albinism.
    • During From Now On, the train Barnum gets on, as well as the background of the scene, looks like something out of a video game. The fact that it's immediately followed up by an (admittedly beautiful) aerial shot of the train riding doesn't help matters, as the train and background suddenly looks more realistic.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • The fascinating people in the circus, save for Anne (whose Maligned Mixed Marriage with Phillip warrants a subplot), are sidelined in favor of Barnum and Carlyle. Ironic considering how Barnum is praised in-story for celebrating them and the whole film is framed and promoted as a celebration of diversity, yet the story sticks with the White Male Lead who takes them for granted until Act Three.
    • Many reviewers have commented that the actual historical personages in the movie are all entirely worthy of movies as they were complex, fascinating individuals. Carlyle replaces James Bailey, for instance, despite the fact he was Barnum's partner. Hell, even PT Barnum himself is arguably a more fascinating individual Antihero than the character he's portrayed as.
    • Hands up everyone who thought O'Malley was responsible for all the money being gone during the building fire.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Many critics disdained the Very Loosely Based on a True Story plot, arguing that a far more interesting film could be made from the real P.T. Barnum story — and pointing out that this trope was intentionally invoked because that story wouldn't make for a feel-good family musical. Director Michael Gracey says in his commentary on the DVD that they invoked this because Barnum rewrote his autobiography twice, and burned the original prints, to make his life seem more fantastic than he was, so they felt that the movie they made would be one that Barnum himself would make, i.e. casting a man with a heroic build like Hugh to play himself, writing his late wife into the movie to show his fidelity, having a lesson about how family is more important than fame, etc.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Pretty much everyone in the cast and crew (except for maybe the screenwriters) but ESPECIALLY Hugh Jackman, whose passion for the project not only shows on-screen but off-screen as well, as he spent 8 years trying to get the movie made. There's just so much energy, though, that can save a movie with such a problematic premise that does a terrible job at justifying itself...
  • Uncanny Valley: To some, Tom Thumb/Charles Stratton can fall into this, considering that it's REALLY obvious the actor playing him is obviously walking on his knees and having his legs being replaced with CGI legs to make him look shorter. What also doesn't help is that the actor has a baby face yet he's been dubbed over with an actor with a much deeper voice, which comes off as more creepy than funny, even though the latter is probably what they were going for. It doesn't help that the dubbing is rather obvious, making it almost comparable to something out of an old Godzilla movie.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Jenny's indiscretion with PT Barnum is presented as Laser-Guided Karma, and it ties into the Darkest Hour part of the narrative. Except it's entirely possible that PT never had any romantic interest in Jenny and she only assumed he did, yet she freely made a pass at him. He promptly turns her down. While being upset is perfectly reasonable, and one could see how she might feel used (as she accuses him), deliberately trying to sabotage his reputation because she was denied a man with a wife and two children is going a bit too far.
  • Values Resonance: Considering what type of turbulent world is going on today, "This is Me" resonates with various people of different backgrounds (sexual, racial, etc.)
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: The real Barnum called himself "only ever a showman" and knew from the get-go that he was peddling hoaxes and sideshow attractions, complete with mistreatment of animals, for entertainment's sake. The trailers paint his creation of the world-famous circus as gathering a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to give them a place where they can be themselves while showing the public at large that they are just as worthy of respect as anyone "normal." The actual movie still has Barnum as a shyster whose quick wit and ability to read people for all intents and purposes hoodwinks the circus performers into joining them rather than stay in their shadowed and ignored stations. The performers must take it upon themselves to shuck society's opinion of them after Barnum shuts them out of Jenny Lind's first-performance after-party. Barnum's Heel Realization conveniently comes when the people he's shunned and scammed are the only ones who'll have anything to do with him anymore.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Even some people who like or even love the movie admit that it's silly that the movie casts Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams as childhood lovers.
    • 4 foot tall Sam Humphrey as the 3 foot tall Tom Thumb. To make him 3 foot tall, he had to perform on his knees the entire time he was filming, meaning he couldn't dance so the character either conveniently leaves or disappears altogether whenever everyone else starts dancing for most of his screentime (From Now On excluded, though even that song had a couple shots where it looked like they were trying to hide his "dancing"). It makes one wonder why they bothered casting him and didn't just cast someone closer to 3 foot tall like Verne Troyer or even Warwick Davis instead.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: Nobody was expecting total historical accuracy down to the kind of lace, but in some scenes it's like they weren't even trying. This dress of Jenny Lind's, for example, looks like something from the nearest Anne Taylor. (At least her hair is up?) Word of God has stated that this was invoked intentionally in order to give the movie a more fantastical feel and less grounded in reality, as well as the costumes needing to work around various choreography requirements.
  • The Woobie: All the performers to an extent, given that they're shunned for being different. Anne, however, gets more screen time, showing what she has to put up with in every-day life. Just look at when she's about to go to theatre. She sounds so timid when saying P.T. reserved a ticket for her, like she expects the box office clerk to look at her sideways.

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