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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages tolerance and acceptance of race, class, physical disabilities, and differences. Diversity and uniqueness are championed within the world of the circus, even as others consider it a "freak" show. Barnum is a purveyor and defender of mass/broad entertainment, which he believes has value, even though cultural critics prefer highbrow/fine arts.
Positive Role Models
The circus performers bond together and help one another feel accepted and at home in their community. Barnum is a showman who needs more and more fans, particularly rich ones, to feel validated, despite having an adoring and loyal wife, children, and close friends. Barnum's wife, Charity, is steadfast, loyal, and kind. Phillip and Anne fall in love across the racial divide of the era.
Violence & Scariness
A rich man slaps a tradesman's son for making his daughter laugh. A young man steals bread and is later smacked for doing so. Angry protesters threaten the circus performers and later set the circus on fire. The fire leads to a supporting character being severely injured, but he survives.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Longing looks and a few passionate kisses between a married couple and another couple in love. A married man spends a lot of time with an unmarried woman; she kisses him in public, even though he doesn't reciprocate. A couple holds hands and eventually kisses and declares their love, even though they know their interracial relationship is considered taboo by others.
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Insults/threatening language: "freaks," "abominations," "stay away from my daughter," etc. A white couple tells their son not to go around "with the help" when they see he's taken a black woman on a date. The racial slur "spooks" is used once, as is the word "damn." A couple exclamations of "God!"
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Products & Purchases
Barnum is its own brand.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink champagne at receptions and privately to toast good news; two men drink shot after shot in a pub; a man takes a swig of liquor from a personal flask. The circus performers drink beer and ask to be allowed into a reception to have champagne.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Greatest Showman is a biographical musical from the songwriters of La La Land that stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, who starts out as a penniless orphan but becomes the world-renowned creator of the circus. There's a bit of language ("damn," the racial slur "spooks," "oh God!," etc.) and violence (protesters burn down the circus, a man slaps a young boy), as well as some drama surrounding the movie's interracial romance, which was taboo at the time. But overall the plot and songs are easy enough for tweens to follow -- and with Zendaya and Zac Efron co-starring, the movie is likely to appeal to them. Although it's based on factual events, the movie only covers a short period in Barnum's life and glosses over certain aspects of his career. It's not garnering the same kind of acclaim as La La Land, but The Greatest Showman's charming leads and circus scenes should make it a fun pick for families who enjoy history, musical theater, and, of course, the circus. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Exuberant performances propel this musical biopic, which isn't perfect but does occasionally delight thanks to its stellar cast, led by the inimitable Jackman. There's inherent value in watching the talented Jackman sing and dance, and he's an ideal fit for playing the titular "greatest showman" on earth. The Greatest Showman doesn't delve into some of the uglier aspects of Barnum's life (like all the hoaxes he was accused of committing), but it does manage to entertain audiences with catchy original songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the award-winning lyricists for La La Land and the Tony-winning Broadway sensation Dear Evan Hansen.
The soundtrack is in many ways more remarkable than the movie itself, with showstopping anthems like Jackman's "The Greatest Show" and "A Million Dreams" and the romantic "Rewrite the Stars" -- a lovely duet by Efron and Zendaya. The songs will stay in your head long after the credits roll, but the plot is unevenly paced. It rushes through the buildup of the Barnums' love story and sugarcoats seedy 19th-century New York to the point that it's not really recognizable as Manhattan. It's best to appreciate the film as a flashy, colorful Broadway show, where the "book" is less important than the musical numbers.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.