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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

History and Drama Brought to Life!

10/10
Author: mlebarondethenard from United States
20 December 2006

I knew nothing about P.T. Barnum before this movie. Since I have seen it on A&E I have since bought the VHS and later the DVD of the show. I loved it! Since my first viewing I have read up on my Barnum history and found only the smallest details changed, more to enhance the drama then an attempt to re-write history. The history of the man is fascinating and seeing how the great showman juggled his family and his career was expertly done! Most all of the Barnum historians agree that his wife Charity was someone of great importance to Barnum despite his touring with one act or another. This film does credit to the connection between husband and wife. Further more we get to see how the Civil War impacted everyone's lives and showcased the struggles families felt between the north and the south. The language of the script is excellent and the speeches given to Barnum are the stuff actors dream of getting. Seeing Barnum describe his dreams of touring with Joyce Heth shows not only his style and panache in the art of the humbug but also gave a wonder in being able to believe things that we know can not be true! Beau Bridges does a tour-de-force job with Barnum. Bridges has the huckster style down perfect and shows just how charismatic the real man must have been to pull off all his dreams and schemes. There is not one weak spot in the cast and it was a masterful stroke to have Beau's son, Jordan, play the young PT. The transformation between actors is enjoyable and believable! Others have pointed out the lack of time the sideshow people receive in this film. The movie is about the life of P T Barnum, not Cheng and Eng or the Bearded Lady. To tell their stories would take a movie all their own. Also the site has listed as goofs the fact Barnum never said "there's a sucker born every minute." That is very true but not a goof. What is a goof is the fact that phrase is never once mentioned in the film so while this fact might fit in trivia it is not a goof in the film. The script is faithful to Barnum's life, brings humanity to the man, and draws on first person source material in the form of Barnum's own biographies! This is a first as almost every other film/musical version goes off in totally random directions and ignores what is right in front of them. Why other writes feel the need to add made up facts when the real ones are more then interesting is beyond me. I take my top hat off to the screen writer and thank him for an excellent piece on the man who often hid behind his own myth, Phineas Taylor Barnum!

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Just great !

Author: gille-3 from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
20 April 2000

We, my girlfriend and I, enjoyed being in another epoch. The people and their costumes made us go back in that time. People were polite and smiling. Life was more simple.

We really enjoyed that tv-series. Thanks to all those persons who have made us live a nice moment of the past.

We thank you all.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Inspirational miniseries

Author: Lennart Guldbrandsson (l_guldbrandsson@hotmail.com) from Gothenburg, Sweden
20 October 2004

Although I cannot argue with the former comment about this miniseries a bit boring, I feel it's also misleading. Certainly, it needn't have been 4 hours long, but if you look past that, and watch it as the costume drama it is, you'd probably enjoy it. The sets are magnificent, and the acting isn't as bad as the former comment suggested.

But what is stunning is Barnum himself, and all the things that we take for granted, that he started or invented - like Madison Square Garden, the permanent circus, the terms "rain check", "grandstanding", and "press conference" (as well as the very notion of a press conference), but also modern advertising - including full page ads, creating a demand, and infotainment. That's the real strength of the miniseries - Barnum's optimistic view of the world and his ideas of marketing and showmanship.

So, if you're interested in how show business started to be a legitimate business, you should see it, even if you shouldn't place it at the top of you "to watch"-list.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Well done!

Author: wipster from Kennewick, WA
23 October 1999

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Beau Bridges' (and his son's) portrayal of P.T. Barnum in this well written, well acted, and well directed production. We felt it provided an excellent insight into PT's feelings and motivation. His need for approval by the "upper class" (George Hamilton's character in particular) was illustrated quite eloquently, as was his eventualacceptance.

While it may not have been 100% historically accurate, it was quite refreshing to see a well made movie that did not depend on gratuitous sex, language, and violence. This is a film that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Bridges "BARNUM" A&E's Greatest Show On Earth!

Author: Joseph Agny (BrunoRI) from Providence, Rhode Island
13 September 1999

"Ladies and gentlemen & children of all ages, in the center ring..." be prepared for the GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!!! And for all, this presentation is. Mr. Bridges should brush of his top hat for another well deserved "EMMY" award. "P.T. Barnum" ran the gambit of emotions and kept me well entertained, {even over two nights}! Bridges supporting cast held their own with THIS master showman, including Bridges own son Jordan as the young P.T Barnum. Simon Wincer's direction was wonderful and with talent and sets of such a grand manner, could perfection not be far?! Smiles for all who seek entertainment here!!!

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

silly... unconvincing... embarrassing

Author: Elliot Collen (satinarmor@hotmail.com) from Hattiesburg, MS, USA
19 September 1999

It's hard to find the words to properly describe this film, though "finding words" is no problem for the characters of this bombastic farce of a "movie event"; everyone in the film seems in danger of choking on a mouthful of the most preposterous, stilted dialogue imaginable. Also, I can't imagine that the director could possibly let these performances pass. Every actor (Bridges in particular) seems to be acting as though they were onstage in a theatre play. I will not believe that anyone EVER spoke the way these characters do, and that I blame on the screenwriter. The movie would have been much more pleasurable to watch had the characters actually seemed like real people instead of poorly written, wordy caricatures. Ironic, since the "characters" ARE actual historic people. Never is there a single moment that rings true, and there is not one ounce of convincing emotion to be found. I won't blame the actors, though. In such a case as this, when the entire production suffers from the same ailments, I can only place responsibility on the director and the script. I can't help but feel embarrassed for Bridges and Co.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Cumbersome Biopic, which Doesn't Hold a Candle to "The Mighty Barnum" (1934)

3/10
Author: WeatherViolet from United States
31 May 2010

Well, for as much as this causes you to want to try to enjoy the film and to hope to find its bright spots, the naysayers appear to call this one right.

This portrays Phineas Taylor Barnum and many around him as irresponsible, manipulative scoundrels with hearts of gold in a cumbersome production which dwells on the negative, lacks continuity, fails to identify many characters, leaves many unexplained details, doesn't nearly live up to its promotional hype, and defeats the purpose of Barnum entertainment value.

While it appears to strive laboriously for factual accuracy, it pales in comparison, for example, with "The Mighty Barnum" (1934), starring Wallace Beery as Phineas T. Barnum, Janet Beecher as Nancy Barnum, Rochelle Hudson as Ellen, Virginia Bruce as Jenny Lind, and Adolphe Menjou as Bailey Walsh.

While the 1934 account takes creative liberties of its own to combine fact with fiction, a familiar cast and steady script provides for entertaining character studies therein.

"P.T. Barnum" (1999), on the other hand, suffers from an awkward script, random editing and haphazard direction, which leaves more questions than answers, thus defeating the purpose of a Biopic. It's not that they don't seem to try very hard to please, but they do focus on the negatives here, much more than the positives.

This begins in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in April of 1891, as the faithful Nancy (Fish) (Stephanie Morgenstern) and Jeremiah (Philip Akin) care for an aged P.T. Barnum (Beau Bridges), who reaches for a copy of his autobiography, to reminisce upon portions of his life, as told in flashback scenes.

35 years earlier, in March of 1856, onlookers refer to the Barnum autobiography, as P.T. enters the New York City Courthouse as defendant in a civil tort trial generated by creditor plaintiffs demanding his repayment of promissory notes.

True to form, P.T. Barnum exhibits his resourcefulness through his speech to put the prosecuting attorney in his place, but we see little of Barnum's innovativeness in the aftermath.

George Hamilton, as spotlighted in the promos, has a cameo role here as Francis Olmsted, a Barnum creditor, and is seen again briefly in the next scene at a board meeting, before he suddenly disappears from this very long and meandering film.

Now, besides extensive scenes with the dysfunctional family, with the elder daughters' constantly blaming Barnum for their mother, Charity's, ill health, and his negligence in relocating her from New York City, even after he purchases another Connecticut estate, this shows very little of the Barnum Museum, Hippodrome and Circus. Once it introduces them, it breaks away for more of the same extensive family squabbles. Again, Drama, Drama in lieu of Entertainment.

And what about those fires? More than once, a fire breaks out, as in the NYC residence during the December, 1857 sequence, and at the Museum a bit later, but the action doesn't resume after the cliffhanger scenes, and nothing is explained in the way of loss. At once point, the family is summoned to a memorial service, but it's not clear who passes. Are these tragedies symbolic of Barnum's resilience to persevere?

If this were a Murder Mystery, with all of these ongoing tensions with discontented creditors and family members, one would expect bodies to be turning up right and left, but most Murder Mysteries don't even present as much fodder for motives to smack someone with the fireplace poker as this "Entertainer" Biopic does.

Once it bounces back to 1891, for more time to reflect on the past, goofs begin to show with problems with age progression makeup. P.T. Barnum is supposed to be two years younger than Charity, whom we may leave alone with her age progression makeup because of her ill health.

Nancy is supposed to be forty years younger then P.T., but instead of appearing about forty in 1891, she appears late-sixtyish.

Jeremiah appears as a young man when P.T. is about fifty, and yet when P.T. approaches eighty, Jeremiah appears about in his seventies. But when the narrative flashes back to P.T. in his fifties, Jeremiah retains his seventyish makeup to appear elder than P.T.

And yet the daughters and their husbands don't age. It's as though they waste the budget on big scenes from which they break and walk away immediately and cannot afford enough makeup to make the rounds.

So, this is one of those productions which doesn't live up to its hype, but rather makes you long for commercial breaks, hoping that they'll advertise something along the lines of a pain assuager which actually works rather quickly because this film doesn't fit together very well.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Where's the freaks?

Author: Bobs-9 from Chicago, Illinois, USA
11 October 1999

I'm afraid I only caught the second half of this miniseries, but what I saw was appalling! Doing a movie about Barnum is such a great opportunity to produce something colorful and exciting and hilarious. When will I learn not to waste time on TV miniseries? while I haven't had the opportunity to see the old 1930's film with Wallace Beery playing Barnum, it MUST have outdone this one. Quite honestly, why should I be so enthralled by the day-to-day minutiae of the private lives of Barnum and his relatives? It only makes a legendary, larger-than-life character that much more mundane.

Typically, we would see about 25 seconds of a routine circus act, followed by 25 minutes of tedious soap opera in period costume. Ah, we get an understanding of the personal demons that drove the man! Oh,Blah...blah...blah!!! In a biography of Barnum, I expect to see outrageous flim-flams and the dumbest of rubes, bearded ladies, flashy and dangerous aerial acts, elephants -- and lots of them, dammit! This was the greatest show on earth. And freaks! A gifted screenwriter could do a whole hour on how one finds a set of Siamese twins, how they're recruited and under what circumstances they've been living, how they're exhibited, what their personalities are like, what they and Barnum thought of each other, what the public reaction was, etc., etc. These aspects of his life and career seem to me a lot more interesting than the fact that he didn't get along with all his daughters or in-laws very well, or that his wife was ill.

Sorry I got carried away.

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2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Even boring in the background

2/10
Author: CheshireCatsGrin from 2 hours north of Los Angeles
22 September 2000

I gave up on this after an hour. My sister tried to watch it while I worked at the computer. Although I love the circus this was a farce. It was over acted as if the actors could talk over the poorly written script. The discussions in the family felt unproductive. After a while, who cares? I wanted to see P.T. Barnum, not the Barnum family. I could see that type of conversation across the street. After a while I actually felt myself getting stressed out from the arguing.

* of 5

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