York's very own showman, Huge frontman and charity concert promoter Big Ian Donaghy, re-appraises the film phenomenon of the year

THE critics panned it. Of course they did.

Wolverine plays ringmaster opposite High School Musical heartthrob pretends to be a playwright as a bearded lady sings an anthem to make Frozen's Let It Go seem like a distant memory? So many wrongs can't make a right...surely?

In a world where a fanfare of PR hype arrives long before a film's release, The Greatest Showman opened almost unannounced to a whimper on Boxing Day.

Even Father Christmas was overshadowed by The Last Jedi but as Easter approaches the Force hasn't been so strong as all light sabres are cool to the touch as the latest Star Wars heads to the DVD shelves. Yet The Greatest Showman continues to fill cinemas.

Rarely do people go to see films again and again but this was such a film. Like the feeling when you first saw Singing In The Rain, Grease or Dirty Dancing, people left the cinema saying they'd be back. You felt the urge to applaud after every song as if you were in a theatre. As the credits rolled, the audience rose and clapped, appreciative for the journey they had been taken on.

Some films are deliberately made to win awards with one shot continuity and gritty dialogue. The Greatest Showman was made to win an audience. It entertains with an underdog story of joy, aspiration and acceptance: what we have in common, not what makes us different.

The critics commented on "clunky CGI", but rather than sending letters of complaint, audiences called it "visually stunning". The soundtrack album has toppled Adele and Sheeran, outselling all contenders and still at number one.

It is, in my opinion, the best soundtrack since Saturday Night Fever, with no need to skip a single track. It is modern, dynamic and exciting with instant earworms throughout: songs to rouse the soul and others to break your heart, crossing all demographics with all ages catered for.

As a raft of new singalong screenings begins, the words of the critic in the movie resonate outside every ticket office: "Mr Barnum, your show is fake". "But the smiles are real," says Hugh Jackman's ringmaster.

Some films are made for critics to pore over as they search for new superlatives for the emperor's new clothes. The critics missed this like Decca missed The Beatles but will still be sat by their laptops in their ivory towers deriding Joe Public. Perhaps they should have heeded the words of P T Barnum himself: "The noblest art is that of making other people happy". How true.

So how does this film feel after the critics' universal mauling? In the words of a bearded lady: "I am brave. I am bruised. This is who I'm meant to be. This is me."

The people have spoken. Joe Public 1, Critics 0.

The Greatest Showman (PG) is showing at Vue York, City Screen, York, and Everyman, York