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Rated 3 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Exuberant and Special
by Betty Jo Tucker

My husband and I watched In the Heights on HBO Max and were awed by this movie version of the Broadway play with stunning music by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s the most exuberant musical ever! As a former dancer, the glorious routines choreographed by Christopher Scott (Step Up Revolution) made me very happy. Most of them ooze joy and energy and creativity. They are performed on sidewalks, streets, above water and below water as well as on the side of a building (a la Fred Astaire’s iconic Royal Wedding number).  

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), this two-and-a half hour offering takes place in Washington Heights, a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in New York. It deals with the hopes, problems, and dreams of those who live there, especially a young man (Anthony Ramos/Hamilton) who runs a bodega and saves his money each day to move to the Dominican Republic. Surprisingly, Chu admitted in a TCM interview that he had the classic Judy Garland movie Meet Me in St. Louis in mind while working on In the Heights. He mentioned that both films deal with the dilemma of staying in one place or moving to another.                

Dancing, singing and so much more!

Community and dreams galore.

YesIN THE HEIGHTS rings out and bold

with two romances in the fold.

 

A massive cast performs their best.

The robust dancers pass each test

And gorgeous voices fill the air

in tunes Miranda wrote with care.

 

A simple story from the heart,

this musical is modern art. 

Now let’s talk about the wonderful women who almost steal the show. First, there’s Quiara Alegra Hudes. She wrote this exciting screenplay adaptation. And then there are three actresses who stand out for me: Leslie Grace (Super Junior Feat), Melissa Barrerra (Dos Veces Tu), and Olga Merediz (Godmothered). Grace and Barrerra play strong, talented young women who fall for the two leading men, portrayed by Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) and Anthony Ramos, respectively. These two ladies are easy to look at and have such lovely voices! In the role of the elderly Abuela Claudia, Merediz should be a best supporting actress award nominee during the next Oscar season. She almost breaks your heart in her poignant subway number.             

Of course, Ramos and Hawkins hold their own with their electrifying energy in the musical routines. And Miranda (Hamilton) himself wins us over in his small role as an amusing street vendor. Be sure to watch the end credits for a little Miranda surprise.

My only complaint involves the film’s lack of complete captions in the HBO Max presentation. This makes it hard for viewers with hearing problems to enjoy In the Heights to the max!

(Released by Warner Bros. Available on HBO until July 11, 2021. Rated “PG-13” by MPAA.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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