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‘In the Heights’ reviews: What critics say

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera star as Usnavi de la Vega and Vanessa in the film adaptation of “In the Heights.”

Warner Bros.

“In the Heights” is a celebration of love, life and community, critics say.

The film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical currently holds 97% “Fresh”

; on Rotten Tomatoes from 130 reviews and arrives in theaters and on HBO Max on Thursday.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), “In the Heights” explores the lives of the residents of the Spanish-speaking community on Manhattan’s Washington Heights. The story is centered around bodega owner Usnavi, who dreams of leaving New York City and opening a bar in his home country, the Dominican Republic.

Usnavi is in love with Vanessa, who works at the local beauty salon and dreams of moving downtown to become a fashion designer. Nina and Benny are the second central couple in the musical. Benny is the dispatcher of a taxi company owned by Nina’s father, but dreams of starting his own business.

Nina has just returned to the city after a year at Stanford University, but she does not want her father to know that she has been dropped because he has struggled to raise money together to send her to the prestigious school. She is also the only one in her family who goes to college.

Woven within these love stories are other members of the community who are dealing with their own problems, including landlords and real estate agents who are causing rent in the area to spike. There is also a heat wave and a $ 96,000 lottery.

Critics have praised Chu’s direction and Quiara Alegria Hudes’ script adaptation of the story she helped Miranda present on stage. Anthony Ramos has been hailed for his breakout performance as Usnavi and reviewers welcome the film’s bright colors and flashy dance figures.

“To quote ‘In the Heights’ itself, the streets are made of music in the first truly hilarious, squirting, bubbly life-affirming film of the summer,” Ann Hornaday wrote in her review of the film for The Washington Post.

Here’s what critics thought of “In the Heights” ahead of Thursday’s debut.

AO Scott, The New York Times

AO Scott of The New York Times praised Chu’s direction of the film, especially the extravagant musical tracks. Chu is no stranger to integrating dance into his storytelling. He has previously directed two films in the “Step Up” franchise. He has also been tapped to handle the upcoming adaptation of the musical “Wicked.”

Scott, like other reviewers, also cut a focus on Ramos.

“Ramo’s charisma fits the role perfectly,” he wrote. “His modesty is as winning and genuine as his bravado, and he is a strong theater singer as well as a subtle film actor.”

Ramos portrayed Usnavi’s cousin Sonny in the stage musical and portrayed John Laurens and Philip Hamilton as part of the original cast of Miranda’s second Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton”.

“‘In the Heights’, which opened on Broadway in 2008 and was due to hit cinemas last year, feels right now like a freshly scraped piragua on a stiff July day and just as permanent as the beams on George Washington Bridge,” Scott wrote. “It’s a piece of mainstream American entertainment in the best sense – an assertion of impatience and faith, a celebration of common bond and individual excitement, a testament to the power of art to turn fights into dreams.”

Read the full review from The New York Times.

Corey Hawkins and Ariana Greenblatt portray Benny and Nina in the film adaptation of “In the Heights.”

Warner Bros.

Clarisse Loughrey, independent

“Sometimes there comes a film that feels perfect in the moment – and not because of superficial ties to current events,” Clarisse Loughrey wrote in her review of the film for the Independent. “The themes that pulsate through ‘In the Heights’ – culture, identity, society, gentrification and the rights of undocumented immigrants – are as central to the conversation now as they were when Lin-Manuel Miranda first debuted his stage musical in 2005.”

“But Jon M Chu’s full – necked, dizzyingly soulful adaptation arrives in cinemas after a year of delay to a world still trying to crawl out under the shadow of a devastating pandemic. In that sense, it’s a gift.”

Loughrey said the film is very conscious of how tied the musical is to tradition and the New York community in Washington Heights. Chu tips the hat to the aquamusicals of Esther Williams and the balletical West Side Story, while respecting the neighborhood’s cultural history. During the “Carnaval del Barrio”, a wallpaper of flags flies high above the crowds, including those from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Puerto Rico.

“‘In the Heights’ is a musical triumph that is not afraid to lift its voice up to the sky,” she wrote.

Read the full review from Independent.

Rafael Motamayor, observer

“Film adaptations of stage musicals go a difficult line in order to both condense the story into the length of a function, while also translating a stage production into a film experience,” wrote Rafael Motamayor in his review of the film. “Many people get lost in the big play and forget to adapt the lyrics, but that’s not the case with ‘In the Heights’, a film that doubles the commentary from the original in the middle of all the catchy and breathtaking musical tracks to create the first really must. – watch movie experience in the summer. “

Motamayor noted that Chu and Hudes dive deep into the play’s themes of dreams, but also contextualize some of the characters’ motives and their struggle with what it means to be part of the Latinx community and the pressure of inheriting your parent’s hopes and dreams. a way it was not explored in stage production.

He said there are moments where the social commentary of the film can come off as “really corny” and there are a few subplots that feel shoehorned into the narrative without nuance, ultimately distracting from the main story.

Make no mistake, this is a musical turned into a giant, as Chu treats the wide shots from the dozens of background dancers with the same eye that you could see Christopher Nolan apply on ‘Tenet’, or the Russo brothers apply to ‘Endgame , “He wrote.” There is a sense of melancholy beneath the optimistic lyrics and the relentless optimism of the characters that come to the surface at several points in the film, a realization that things are fading, neighborhoods are changing and people are leaving, but we may well throw a huge party “Before it happens. ‘In the Heights’ is that party and we’re just lucky to be invited.”

Read the full review from Observer.

Anthony Ramos plays in “In the Heights.”

Warner Bros.

Monica Castillo, The Wrap

Among Chu’s kinetic dance numbers is “Paciencia y Fe”, a ballad sung by Abuela Claudia, an elderly woman who lives in the neighborhood and treats everyone like family.

The “enchanting” dance number features contemporary ballet and tells the story of Claudia’s mother leaving Havana for New York.

Shot in what looks like the old trains and platforms at the New York Transit Museum, the musical shift in tone during ‘Paciencia y Fe’ that takes audiences back in time to revisit painful memories of her struggle to survive in America and the peace of to finally feel at home again, ”wrote Monica Castillo in her review of the film for The Wrap.

The ‘Paciencia y Fe’ sequence was praised by many critics for showing the excitement that many Spanish people feel when they adapt to living in America, a place where anything is supposed to be possible.

Castillo noted that “In the Heights” is a rarity in Hollywood. Its Latino characters “live normal lives outside of gang or drug violence and outside of stereotypes.”

“How rarely do we see ourselves just holding a job down and nurturing our ambitions; in most films, do we even have enough lines of dialogue to have ambitions?” she wrote.

The film shows the importance of inclusivity and diversity not only in our neighborhoods but in the entertainment industry.

“With ‘In the Heights’, Chu delivers the Latin equivalent of his previous box office smash ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and knocks it out of the park,” she wrote.

Read the full review from The Wrap.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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