The hotly anticipated film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ first Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights, has finally arrived. This means you and your family can sing and dance to something other than Hamilton this summer. And just like Hamilton — with its stunning vision, catchy tunes, mesmerizing choreography and compelling narrative — In the Heights is magic on every level.
The Jon M. Chu-directed film drops us into the life of Usnavi de la Vega (a charming Anthony Ramos) in New York’s largely Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. The young man spends his days running a small bodega and daydreaming about one day moving out of his tight-knit community. Usnavi is surrounded by colorful streets and other community members who share similar dreams of finding brighter futures despite their circumstances.
Combining the talents of some of Broadway’s stars like Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega and a scene-stealing Gregory Diaz IV (as Usnavi’s cousin Sonny), In the Heights boasts a remarkable lineup of talent that also includes film stars Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Jimmy Smits. (There may even be a couple of surprise cameos in there, too.)
Each of these actors helps paint a neighborhood that feels alive. You bounce around from place to place, getting to know everyone, how they support each other and pass the time during the hot summer days. They’re so fleshed out and infectious that you wish you could break through the screen to hang out with them and take part in their festivities. Whether it’s gossiping in a salon, cooking a delicious meal with the matriarch of the barrio (a lovely Merediz) or articulating your emotions through song and dance, you’ll feel your heart grow and feet tap.
Beauty can be found in every nook and cranny of the film. Chu, who’s coming off the success of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, provides a vision that is sure to toss In the Heights in the cinematic time capsule. You won’t soon forget the way the filmmaker populates the pool sequence with eye candy and turns to Christopher Nolan-like techniques to elevate an intimate moment involving a duet on a building side.
If there’s one shortcoming, it’s the length. With the film clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes, you reach a point when you begin to feel it. As astonishing as the moments are, the film could have used slight tightening to keep the momentum going at full tilt.
In the Heights isn’t just fun and games. Miranda, Hudes, Chu and Co. lay down thematically rich material with strong characters and tunes to carry it. In many ways, it operates like what one could imagine a musical version of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing would be like. It celebrates Latino culture and community dynamics with style, passion and vigor. You’ll find the film easy to fall in love with and just may play it on repeat all summer long.