It’s been a while since there was a musical brought to the screen that we were excited about and actually wanted to watch. We’re not going to talk about Cats, because that is one we hope to never re-experience on and off the screen. And with Broadway still closed down, now is the perfect time for Warner Brothers to bring In the Heights to the screen. Will your experience with the show be the same as it would be if you were seeing it once they open back up in the Fall? No, but like many other musical movies, the difference between the two ways is evident but doesn’t mean one is better than the other.
In the Heights is a musical written by Lin Manual Miranda in 2006 and documents the story of Usnavi in the days leading up to the blackout that took down the power grid in 2003. The heat of the summer, the woman of his dreams, and his actual life long dreams all seem to be conflicting and may be leading him to where he is meant to be – he hopes.
Just like every other musical brought to the screen, In the Heights brings with it musical numbers that has everyone singing as they go about their day to day life. But the movie format makes it a lot easier to change locations, focus and characters as the songs go on. It even has Lin Manual Miranda singing and adding the the chorus as what might be considered a bit role by any stretch of the imagination. Likewise, he is dressed down and almost blends into the community he created making his character almost recognizable.
At the heart of it, In the Heights, all revolves around dreams of the second, third or even further generation immigrants in this small neighborhood of Washington Heights. It focuses mostly on Usnavi, who’s name no doubt came from the old Carlos Mencia joke, but also everyone around him in his life. It shows how community can help break or build dreams, and even the struggles of minorities as they still fight for their place in society after several generations.
The movie is engaging, entertaining and has a lot of heart wrapped up in the story. it’s a good reminder of why we need the lesser told stories brought to the screen and why sometimes, musicals are the perfect way to do it. If you’re a fan of Hamilton, you’ll recognize the beat and the pacing of the story telling.
Probably the only bad things I could say about In the Heights was the movie was a bit long, over two hours and twenty minutes long. Definitely a bit too long for someone who’s been used to watching movies at home for the last fifteen months. However, that being said – if we were seeing this show on the stage, the length would not be anything we would even consider. Another issue was we never really get an answer about the rest of Sonny’s journey – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a happy ending. It more leans on the fact that a lot of dreamers and immigrant children often are still fighting that fight.
Would we recommend seeing In The Heights in theaters? If possible yes, the music will have you tapping your feet along to it. But if you are not able to, you can watch it on HBO Max at home if you are subscribed. In The Heights is joining a long list of musical movies that we will revisit over and over again.
About IN THE HEIGHTS:
(In theaters and on HBO Max) The creator of “Hamilton” and the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” invite you to a cinematic event, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big… “In the Heights.” Lights up on Washington Heights…The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.
Starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco and Jimmy Smits.
Directed by Jon M. Chu