We know what you're thinking. A jukebox musical using Take That songs? Sounds a bit naff and likely very cheesy, one strictly for the fans. Dismiss Greatest Days though and you'll be missing out on one of 2023's biggest movie surprises.
Because yes, Greatest Days is a bit naff and cheesy, but in the right way. It's a wholesome celebration of friendship, tinged with heartbreak, that ultimately proves to be a crowdpleaser whether you like Take That or not as it's not really about them.
Instead, the central band in the movie is just "The Boys" and it's actually about a group of best friends. 25 years ago, their lives were forever changed on a night they went to see their favourite band and when the band reunites for a comeback tour, the friends reunite also to relight their friendship.
Adapted from the stage musical The Band (now renamed after the movie and on a UK tour), Greatest Days isn't exactly subtle in its approach. It's clear that something devastating happened 25 years ago, and it's fairly obvious what it was even though it's kept for a late-stage reveal.
This fumbled reveal aside, the movie doesn't do much wrong in its approach. It's clearly aiming for big-hearted musical cheese, but its theatricality is rooted in genuine emotion so that it earns its emotions rather than feeling manipulative.
The movie's biggest strength is not making it about Take That and focusing on a specific shared experience. Everybody has had that group of friends you were super close to in your youth, mutually obsessed over one thing whether it's a band, TV show or whatever, only to drift apart over the years because life gets in the way.
Sure, Greatest Days explores this theme via some Take That bangers, but the engaging performances matter more. Aisling Bea and her counterpart Lara McDonnell as the younger Rachel are the standouts, with Bea honing her This Way Up blend of comedy and tragedy for her biggest movie role to date.
Unlike some jukebox musicals, Greatest Days doesn't just attempt straight covers of Take That songs. Each song is moulded to fit a different purpose with inventive choreography and staging, from 'Shine' becoming an old-school Hollywood ballroom number to 'Back for Good' turning into an emotive ballad that has the teenagers talking to their adult selves.
The one that'll linger in the memory is a moving, stripped-back version of 'Rule the World' during a key climactic scene. Because yes, not only is the Take That musical genuinely good, but you will also cry.
Ultimately though, Greatest Days is a joyous experience as the emotional highs always hit harder after exploring the lows. The movie might be set in a fantastical world where "The Boys" constantly appear out of nothing for a big number, but Greatest Days works so well because it feels real.
Could it be magic? Yes, it actually could.
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