Show Boat is one of MGM's best musical productions of the 1950s, an entertaining star vehicle that suffers primarily by comparison to the 1936 version. Director George Sidney is mostly interested in getting production values onto the screen, and he does so admirably, with a rousing opening sequence that establishes the tone and pacing to follow. The film both benefits and suffers from the star-laden casting choices. While Joe E. Brown is fun to watch doing his usual Joe E. Brown act, he fails to credibly become the character he is playing. Similar problems exist in other casting choices. If Ava Gardner is never quite believable as Julie LaVerne, she instead gives a very fine Ava Gardner performance. What the 1936 version lacks in spectacle, this remake more than compensates for. The film is visually rich and lush, and the performers never lack for energy or charisma.
by Richard Gilliam review