"In The Heights" stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, and Jimmy Smits. Released on June 10, 2021, the film chronicles the characters living in Washington Heights.
The film was directed by Jon M. Chu, who also directed films such as "Step Up 2: The Streets", "G.I. Joe: Retaliation", "Jem and the Holograms", and "Crazy Rich Asians". It is based on the Broadway musical of the same name by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Nothing screams "summer" more than singing and dancing our hearts out. Before he made a true American musical called "Hamilton", Lin-Manuel Miranda was involved in a musical that took place in a small part of New York known as Washington Heights. Titled "In The Heights", the musical combines hip-hop music with Hispanic heritage to craft a heartfelt and energetic story that won over audiences and critics alike. Thirteen years after its debut on Broadway, the musical is now heading its way to the big screen so that everyone who couldn't afford a Broadway ticket can experience it for themselves. Like my experience with "Hamilton", I have not seen the Broadway version of "In The Heights", mostly because I didn't have the time or money to see some musicals very often. However, I was willing to see the movie version of the musical for Lin-Manuel Miranda and director Jon M. Chu. Chu has come off the heels of his previous film, "Crazy Rich Asians", which happened to be the best film of his career, according to the critics. But it already appeared that this film had beaten it to the punch regarding the highly glowing reviews it's been getting. It's always nice when a struggling filmmaker made a film that critics and audiences love, let alone two. As for Miranda, he's been impressing me with his musical taste and acting talent so far, and I was hoping that he'll impress me again with the film adaptation of his musical. With that said, let's see if this musical drama is worthy of their talents.
The story follows the same plot as the Broadway musical. It centers on Usnavi de la Vega (Ramos), a bodega owner in Washington Heights. He's been saving his money from his daily grind in hopes of a better life. Usnavi and the other cast of characters face many trials that infect their chances of fulfilling their dreams, including a blackout that renders them without electricity. It's no surprise to see a film representing a small Hispanic community and provides unique energy that warms the hearts of every viewer. It's not meant to be an overly serious depiction of the population's struggles in Washington Heights. It is more of a high-spirited and music-driven celebration of this tiny part of New York, the people living in it, and the importance of what it means to truly belong. It knew what it wanted to be without being anything different. In this case, that's pretty much all we needed. This is a sublime piece of musical cinema that combines its infectious upbeat songs with a heartfelt plot and amiable characters. The film featured many materials for the audience to take in, thanks to its eye-popping two-hour-plus runtime. However, its brisk pacing and the dynamic chemistry between the cast prevented the energy and the beats from dying down too quickly. It also did a fine job balancing the focus on the main characters and their journeys without making one feel more important than the other. Anthony Ramos was undoubtedly exquisite in his role as Usnavi, a character Miranda played in the Broadway production. In addition to his solid performance during the dialogue scenes, Ramos also provided some respectable range and enthusiasm in his musical sequences. Leslie Grace and Melissa Barrera were also really talented as Nina Rosario and Vanessa, Usnavi's crush, respectively. Jon M. Chu is no stranger to directing dance sequences as he was previously involved with the "Step Up" franchise. He has a unique way of presenting dance routines that were energetic, smooth, and somehow hypnotic, like you're in the middle of watching a Cirque du Soleil show. "In The Heights" proved that Chu had not lost his touch. The choreography by Christopher Scott was irresistibly divine, the set designs and visuals were imaginative and vigorous, and the editing and cinematography were respectable enough to keep track of the dancers' movements. As for its soundtrack, I thought it was one heck of a treat. The songs have a Latino flavor to their hip-hop vibes, which helps with the representation of the Hispanic community. Rather than using them to halt the plot, the film used the musical numbers to progress the story and represent the characters' thoughts and dialogue. Despite the lyrics being a challenge for me to memorize, the beats were catchy enough for me to tap my feet with excitement and maybe hum along with the lively cast. If I were to choose which musical number is my favorite, I would have to go with "96,000" because of the choreography and the hip-hop elements.
Overall, "In The Heights" is a joyful and visually astounding musical experience that'll surely light up anyone's day this summer. It's a highly well-directed musical that not only celebrates the culture and the community but also gleefully infects the minds and souls with toe-tapping music and gorgeous sceneries. With its impressive cast, superb direction, eye-catching musical numbers, and engaging plot, the film sees Jon M. Chu continuing his winning streak with ease. I might even say that this is his best work yet in my eyes. If you're into something that puts you in a good mood or if you're a fan of musicals in general, this film is worth checking out either in the theater or on HBO Max.