‘In The Heights’ Falls Flat In Many Ways

If a movie poster has to remind you of the filmmaker past accomplishments, it’s never a good sign.

I wanted to like In The Heights. I like musicals. I come from a family with a very musical background. So, I’m not some knuckle-dragging troglodyte or cretin by saying this, but this movie is absolutely horrible and boring.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, I think, has been believing his own hype following Hamilton, which I still haven’t been able to finish on Disney-Plus for the same reason this movie was hard to finish – there was no energy.

Musicals should give you a special feeling like you unexpectedly feel yourself tapping your toes to the beat or moving your head with the rhythm. There is none of that here. The songs are so bland, the only one I remember is a very long one about winning a $96,000 lottery ticket that seems to go on and on that you’re expecting something only to find nothing.

And that’s the problem. There’s a lot going on here but nothing really makes sense. The main character is Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who plays the character as if he’s reading lines off screen for the first time. He owns a bodega (corner shop) in the Washington Heights neighborhood but hardly ever seems to be at it or having to deal with the struggles of being a business owner. He wants to move out to the Dominican Republic, I guess. I don’t know why. He seems to leave work at the drop of a dime to go to the local community pool.

He’s smitten with a woman, Vanessa, who works at a nail and hair saloon across the street. She’s played by Melissa Barrera who only seems to exist to be Usnavi’s love interest.

Jimmy Smits, the only actor in this mess who seems to be trying to act and give it his best, runs a taxi service but wants to sell it so his daughter can go to college. She has a nice hissy fit at a dinner, which is the only scene in which there aren’t 3-4 songs being sung, and this scene only exist so she can lament how the neighborhood isn’t what it used to be.

There’s some other characters. Corey Hawkins who played Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton appears and there’s a subplot about a woman having to move her saloon to the Bronx that never really registers. Oh, and some old woman who Usnavi refers to Abuela buys a lottery ticket.

You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to deduce that she won the big lottery ticket.

I didn’t like this movie at all. After a while the characters seemed to be more like Latino stereotypes and I felt like I was watching a painfully bad Carlos Mencia skit that had been stretched out to well over two hours.

And that’s the problem. This movie is almost two and a half fucking hours long. Avengers: Endgame was three hours long and it was exciting and fun. I get the feeling that not only were no songs cut from the stage to the screen, they added more so they can have the Academy consider them for nomination.

And the songs are horrible. The entire cast sings them as if they are elementary school kids in a choral arrangement on risers uninterested just singing the lyrics with no enthusiasm, sadness, emotion, happiness. All the songs seem to run together.

Most musicals should have songs that further the plot while standing alone on their own. These are too jumbled together. One song segues into another and then there’s about 90 seconds of dialogue and another song begins.

Even the dance choreography seems pedestrian. Granted Bollywood movies are almost three hours but at least when the cast burst out in a song and dance you feel the groove and enjoy it.

I kept expecting for a song to be different or a dance number to have some life to it, but I would rather watch all seasons of Glee, even the really awful ones toward the end A Clockwork Orange style than sit through this movie.

I had it on my list on HBO Max before I realized it was the last day I was going to have it, but I could listen to “Baby Shark” over and over for two hours and be enjoyed that better.

Even though Miranda wrote the song and lyrics, he barely appears in this movie. The writer is Quiara Alegria Hudes, who also wrote the book for the musical that dates back to 2005. And I think that’s the problem. There’s still a feeling this movie has characters who are from 15 years in the past but living in a modern society.

I’m not the least bit surprised this movie is a box office bomb. Yet I can’t fathom why it’s received so many rave reviews, unless critics are judging it on what it intends to do rather than what it actually does. And I’m not going to lie. I think we should have more movies set about cultures in America that aren’t from Smalltown, Ohio.

But this movie feels a little too isolated in its own neighborhood. I think that is why it hasn’t appealed to main audiences. And unfortunately, I don’t think it will find a better audience over the years.

Sometimes, musicals just don’t work. Sometimes they should just be left on the stage. There’s a relationship between the cast and the audience. People going to see a Broadway musical are expecting something two and a half hours long. It’s hard to make that leap from stage to screen. Many plays and musicals have been changed have their style and format, adding characters, deleting or compiling others.

Unfortunately, Miranda and Hudes don’t know what “Kill Your Darlings” means, I think.

And this was the harsh lesson they were taught.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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