Musicals are hard to translate to movies, especially once the musical has a large fan base and won awards. They either are well received or they are torn apart by fans for not doing part of the story right. And truly, fans are going to decide if Dear Evan Hansen falls in either side of that equation. But after screening the movie, we start to ask – was it really necessary to take this musical and make it into a movie?
Dear Evan Hansen follows, Evan Hansen (obviously) as he navigates through his life and events he unwittingly set into motion after the death of a classmate. Conner, the classmate takes his own life and is found with a letter to Evan in his pocket, one that Evan wrote himself as part of his therapy. Not wanting to hurt Conner’s family any more than they already were, the letter leads Evan to create a web of lies that ultimately may do more harm than good.
If we go away from the topics of mental health, self-harm and just the overall premise of the movie – the real problems we had with the movie start to become apparent. The film happens in High School – but they never specify what grade any of the students are in, and really that doesn’t matter for the story. But what does matter is the age of the actors playing high school students. It’s almost like we’re back to the Grease days when 30-year-olds are playing teenagers again. With the lead Evan Hansen, being played by Ben Platt (27), who while he does well, his age shows through more than anything. Next is Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Zoe. She’s a bit more convincing at being a teenager, and we did love her in Booksmart, but then, she’s still a bit too old for the role. Another casting for us was Nik Dodani, who plays Evan’s family friend Jared. His part in the movie is so close to his character Zahid in Atypical on Netflix that we wonder if he was just brought into the film to fill that spot.
While the messages in Dear Evan Hansen are good, the story is dark, depressing and one that – you should be in the right mindset to watch. After the past 18 months, where a lot of people are struggling and working more on their own mental health, this movie may not be one that calls to a lot of viewers, or it could be one that resonates with them more than we would expect. Really, we won’t know until the box office numbers come in, but it isn’t a movie that we would watch over and over again. But even with that being said, we would love to see it on stage and how different it actually is.
Maybe if the timing was different, and the cast was a bit more believable for the show, we would have enjoyed the film more. It still will make viewers cry, but the question of Evan’s motives and what harm he actually is doing still sat at the back of our minds through the whole film.
Dear Evan Hansen opens in theaters this weekend.
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About Dear Evan Hansen:
The breathtaking, generation-defining Broadway phenomenon becomes a soaring cinematic event as Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his role as an anxious, isolated high schooler aching for understanding and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty of the social-media age.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Wonder), the film is written for the screen by the show’s Tony winner Steven Levenson with music and lyrics by the show’s Oscar®, Grammy and Tony-winning songwriting team of Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman).
Featuring songs from the Grammy winning album, including the iconic anthem “You Will Be Found,” “Waving Through a Window,” “For Forever” and “Words Fail,” Dear Evan Hansen stars six-time Oscar® nominee Amy Adams, Oscar® winner Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give), Colton Ryan (Apple TV+’s Little Voice), Nik Dodani (Netflix’s Atypical), DeMarius Copes (Broadway’s Mean Girls) and Danny Pino (NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit).
Dear Evan Hansen is produced by Marc Platt (La La Land, Into the Woods, Mary Poppins Returns) and Adam Siegel (2 Guns, Drive), and is executive produced by Michael Bederman, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Universal Pictures will distribute the film in all territories.