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Cinematic Releases: In the Heights (2021) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1104 days ago on Entertainment - Courtesy of Warner Bros.Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu’s big screen adaptation of Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony Award winning off-Broadway urban Latin-American musical is without question the first major film of its kind since Robert Wise’s 1961 film West Side Story.  Arguably even more Spanish in form than Wise’s seminal classic, currently being remade by Steven Spielberg, Chu’s film arrives after nearly a decade of development Hell tied to the now defunct Weinstein Company before Warner Brothers swooped in after the smash-hit success of Miranda’s Hamilton.  An ensemble hip hop infused musical rags-to-riches story sporting brilliant choreography and a magnetic central performance from the film’s hero Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner scraping by with dreams of a better more prosperous future. Courtesy of Warner Bros.Sheer cinematic escapism in the purest form, In the Heights is slated for a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max run though let it be said a film of this size and spectacle demands viewing on the big screen.  Though the musical underwent numerous changes from the journey from stage to screen, including the excision of side characters and songs that distracted from the central narrative, there hasn’t been a musical in some time that has played like a real slice of life experience.  Similar to Little Shop of Horrors and Rent before it, the film is a tribute to urban immigrant residents making the most of their city life while looking off into the sunset hoping for something greater with whole set pieces built to look like city alleyways, streets and stairwells. Aided by a staggering ensemble cast of characters including Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits and Leslia Grace, In the Heights is at once a deep dive into the culture and life of Washington Heights, New York as well as an old fashioned Hollywood musical chock full of magical realism and audiovisual wonderment.  Take for instance a major sequence that begins within the bodega and then finds its way towards a synchronized swimming number shot in the Highbridge Pool with over 500 extras.  It’s a scene of sheer sensual excess the big screens haven’t seen in some time despite being a wholly down to Earth story being told. Brilliantly acted, choreographed, edited and shot, Jon M. Chu’s most ambitious undertaking to date is somewhat on the long side but as such is so true to the life experience of Latin-American immigrants making their way through urban New York you forgive the film’s hefty running time.  At the sneak preview everyone remained riveted and those who stayed through the end credits got a little bonus after they finished.  Courtesy of Warner Bros.If Anthony Ramos as the film’s hero Usnavi doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for what is truly an electrifying performance and arguably a successor to his work on Hamilton, it will be another Academy Awards upset.  At only 29, the Puerto Rican actor owns the screen in every scene he’s in, even upstaging some of the more veteran performers alongside him.  All in all, the film is a smash hit slice-of-life musical that simultaneously propels you into cinematic fantasy while also bringing the reality of life In the Heights home to the uninitiated.  Easily one of the best films of 2021 whose long and unforeseen delays towards the big screen have been well worth the wait.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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