In The Heights – ★★★★✩

Certificate – PG
Directed By – Jon M. Chu
Starring – Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Stephanie Beatriz, Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dascha Polanco, Jimmy Smits
Running Time – 143 Minutes (2 Hours 23 Minutes)

I wasn’t sure what to think when going into the screening of In The Heights and I left wondering what I thought, and a big chunk of that is because my cinema was so fucking warm it was hard to concentrate.

It perfectly set the mood towards the film, which takes place during a sweltering summer and the neighbourhood of Washington Heights suffers a power blackout.

Image via Macall Polay/Warner Bros

What I’ve come to realise over the past couple of days thinking about it is this movie has had a similarly big impact on me since La La Land.

Both films play on the same theme of reaching for your dreams, but while Damien Chazelle’s jazz-inspired Oscar winner was a fairytale. This big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway smash hit deals in reality telling us, yes, reach for your dreams but know it’s going to be fucking hard.

Image via Warner Bros

Moreover, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack since the screening and today (Wednesday 16th June), I listened to it in the gym, and it’s a cracking album for cardio.

Also, I can’t say Washington Heights or In The Heights without thinking of the cast singing WASHINGTON HEIGHTS & IN THE HEIGHTS.

The story is a simple one about Usnavi (Ramos) having a dream to return to his home of the Dominican Republic and saving up every penny as we experience the sights and smells of this tight-knit community just outside of the 181st Street subway stop.

Image via Macall Polay/ Warner Bros

Additionally, the film smartly becomes How I Met Your Mother with a twist that surprised me.

The cast is terrific, mixing up-and-comers with new stars and Broadway stars. The only known faces being Miranda, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Beatriz and Star Wars prequel legend Smits.

Ramos will have a fantastic big-screen career because he had to make you like Usnavi. He’s so charming and charismatic that by the first 10 minutes, all I wanted to do is be his friend. The same can be said of Hawkins, who is this ball of energy and charism seriously reminded me of a young Will Smith.

Image via Macall Polay/ Warner Bros

Then there’s Barrera and the moment we’re introduced to her, a star was born. She completely took my breath away, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her everytime she was on screen, and I can’t remember the last time I felt like that.

Image via Warner Bros

Getting Chu to direct was a masterstroke because he was perfect, bringing colour and life to the neighbourhood making it a character just as he did with Crazy Rich Asians. Reuniting with CRA production designer Nelson Coates helped Chu achieve this.

The songs are great with In The Heights, 96,000, The Club and Carnaval Del Barrio top tier. While Benny’s Dispatch is cute and No Me Diga is a fun song.

However, I believe the film at two hours 23 minutes is too long, and they could’ve removed some songs and try and edit it down to two hours. I will say I could feel different if I felt more comfortable instead of focusing on the heat in the cinema.

So I will see it again to make sure.

On the other hand, it’s a fun, colourful movie with wonderful songs and does what cinema is supposed to do, transport you and escaping from your life into a new one and leave with the biggest smile. While that didn’t happen right away, it has happened, and a genuinely great movie does that.

Image via Macall Polay/ Warner Bros

Verdict

A fun time at the cinema with wonderful music and a cast of characters that by the end you wish you lived in Washington Heights.

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