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‘In the Heights’ review

Megan Blackadar, Reporter

Musical films are the newest way to see your favorite Broadway show on the big screen. Based on the 2008 Broadway musical with the same name, “In The Heights” has received praise from critics and moviegoers. Creator Lin Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame and director Jon M. Chu, best known for “Crazy Rich Asians,” had a lot on their plate when adapting the show for the screen. They had to bring the show into the present day while keeping it accurate and still keeping the elements that made the original so loved. 

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

The story revolves around Usnavi, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who lives with his grandmother figure Abuela Claudia in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights (hence the name of the movie). Usnavi owns the corner store that he inherited from his parents, and he longs to go back to his native country and fix up the bar his parents left behind. 

At its center, this movie is one about family, friends, and a vibrant community and culture on the verge of death due to gentrification. For instance, in one scene, we see Abuela Claudia go to the new laundromat to clean some towels and get charged over a hundred dollars.

In the Heights felt like a deeper look into a community I had never experienced. With vibrant characters like Sonny, Usnavi’s teenage cousin who is passionate about destroying anything that gets in his way; Nina, the first in her family to go to college; and Vanessa, a stylist who wishes for more and tries to move uptown with what little she has — this story comes alive. 

The movie’s two-hour and twenty minutes run time sped by as I was engulfed in the story. Honestly, I was expecting many cliche tropes but I was pleasantly surprised by what I got instead. At the very end, Usnavi changes his mind and stays in New York, and gets with Vanessa. He proclaims that the best days of his life are now, and I think that’s a really good way to look at life.

Even knowing the emotional twist of Abuela Claudia’s death, the whole scene still brought me to tears. A homage to her Cuban heritage, I was overwhelmed with the impressive dance numbers and storytelling weaved into such a dramatic song. I walked out of the theater with the songs stuck in my head and a warm feeling in my chest, and even though it was a fictional story I still felt inspired by their story.

With cameos from theater icons such as Lin Manuel Miranda, Patrick Page, and Christopher Jackson, theatre fans like myself can still feel seen and appreciated. While many of the original songs have been cut from the movie and there were some pretty decent changes in the storyline, I think in the end it all worked out to make a diverse and entertaining movie with a spectacular soundtrack and several big dance numbers reminiscent of stage musicals.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Spinnaker sails

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