The wait is over! In the Heights is finally here.
I pushed through the temptation of watching In the Heights at home (although I did watch the first eight minute teaser), so that I could experience this colorful, energized Summer blockbuster on the big screen. I was not disappointed.
The storytelling begins with a vibrant sense of community and connection as we meet Usnavi opening the corner bodega in Washington Heights, NYC. The shop is magical as the central spot of the neighborhood’s daily routine. It houses Usnavi’s dream of returning to his home in the Dominican Republic, and offers promise to others as they dance in for coffee (con leche), and sing about lottery tickets. Every person you see is a part of the chorus, and I’m here for it.
The film version is written by Quiara Alegría Hughes, who also wrote the book for the musical with Lin Manuel Miranda. You’ll notice several creative changes, including the absence of characters and songs, as well as an entire mood shift. Knowing the same creators were behind the decisions makes it easier to let go of some of the story.
Directed by Jon M. Chu, (Step Up 2, Crazy Rich Asians), this film shares subtle creative details and hints of what’s to come next. If you have seen some of his work, you know that he’s very into reflections and water. The pool scene is phenomenal. I will say there were some quirky and likely expensive post-production liberties that made me laugh.
The choreography is magnificent, fast, and colorful with an electric ensemble that celebrates Latinx culture and dance. The songs are both spirited and emotional, moving along with the fabric of the story. Listen and look for hat tips to Hamilton and other pop culture references. It’s only June, but this is my favorite movie of the year so far.