‘In The Heights’ Review: Extravagant Display of Culture and Community

Which musical films would you consider masterpieces? Good news: you can most likely add In The Heights to that list.

In The Heights is based on the play of the same name by Lin-Manuel Miranda and directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians). It stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Jimmy Smits, and Olga Merediz.

The story follows young, likeable bodega owner Usnavi who saves every penny and works day and night as he hopes, sings, and searches for a better life.

What Works

(L-r) COREY HAWKINS as Benny and LESLIE GRACE as Nina in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Macall Polay

In The Heights has so many incredible attributes about it. The film immerses you in its setting from start to finish. The music is phenomenal, the characters are relatable and charismatic, the dance numbers are flawless – but what it has going for it most at its center is the message: that what you truly love and need may not be as far as you think.

The music is top to bottom outstanding. Every cast member lead vocalist abilities and flawlessly sync singing and rapping to not only hit the highest of the high notes, but also narrate a story in a way that works. Similar to Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda brings this sing-rap style to the story that compliments the script and takes you through scenes in imaginative ways. The music accompanied by tightly choreographed dance numbers and colorful outfits and sets creates an entertaining experience from beginning to end. And this of course is led by great characters.

The cast play off one another well. Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) has a magnetic spirit and his constant hard working ways pair well with Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who also yearns for a better life chasing her dreams. Nina (Leslie Grace) and Benny (Corey Hawkins) are loveable as well. Nina’s story is particularly interesting as a student at Stanford, she feels out of place, but as someone returning home for the summer she feels like she missed so much. It is a culture clash that many POC can relate to. It is the feeling of identity crisis like you don’t fit in either community. Benny, meanwhile, works for Nina’s father, Kevin, who yearns for his daughter to have a better life at Stanford.

My favorite character of the film, though, is Abuela Claudia. She was the neighborhood matriarch that took everyone in and nurtured and raised them. Abuela Claudia is the spirit of In The Heights.

The sets, cinematography, and wardrobe all complimented the fantastic story and characters.

What Doesn’t Work

(L-r) COREY HAWKINS as Benny, ANTHONY RAMOS as Usnavi, and GREGORY DIAZ IV as Sonny in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Macall Polay

Honestly, it was hard to pinpoint what doesn’t work in this film. In The Heights offers plenty of charm, magic, and heart. The one fault it makes, for non-musical connoisseurs, is the length of some of the songs. Some of the songs feel a bit longer than they need to be, but take that with a grain of salt – it is a musical after all.

In The Heights is a day one, must-see film. If you can make it to theaters for it, all the better. The incredible music and numbers, characters and cast, story, and exploration of Latinx culture really make In The Heights an unforgettable experience.

In The Heights: 9/10

In The Heights debuts in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously on June 11. Will you be watching?! As always let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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