In The Heights Image

In The Heights

By Alan Ng | June 11, 2021

There’s really no point in trying to defend my less-than-positive review of Jon M. Chu’s In The Heights as being internet click-bait. Look, I just didn’t like it. I love Crazy, Rich Asians! I adore Hamilton! I even loved the infamous train wreck, known as Cats! But, unfortunately, I did not love this.

In The Heights opens with young entrepreneur Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) outside his beachfront store in the Dominican Republic, telling stories to the local children about his life running a bodega in the Manhattan neighborhood Washington Heights. Usnavi’s time “in the Heights” is what allowed Usnavi to follow his “sueñito” (dream) and save enough money to purchase the bar once owned by his father in the Dominican Republic.

Everyone in Washington Heights is like family to Usnavi, both literally and figuratively. Usnavi manages the bodega with his cousin, Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). The owner of the bodega, Claudia (Olga Merediz), is the “Abuela” of the neighborhood. Usnavi also has a significant crush on hairstylist and emerging fashion designer Vanessa (Melissa Barrera).

“…[Usnavi’s] life running a bodega in the Manhattan neighborhood Washington Heights

His best friend is Benny (Corey Hawkins), the ex-boyfriend of Nina (Leslie Grace), who is the daughter of his boss, Kevin (Jimmy Smits). Nina and Benny broke up when Nina went away to Stanford for college and has just returned, dropping out because she found no “home” in California.

In The Heights is about dreams. Every character has a dream they’re chasing, but all come up against an obstacle of some form. Vanessa wants to be a designer, but she can’t pass the background check for a New York apartment even though she has enough cash for a deposit and a steady job. Kevin dreams of Nina graduating from college and is willing to sell his business to do it. Benny dreams of being with Nina. Local salon owner Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega) dreams of moving to a better location in New York City. Everyone has dreams and has either lost them or been prevented from achieving them.

I wanted to like the film. On paper, it should have worked, and I’m not going to go through my creds, but I love musicals, and this one didn’t work… as a musical. So I’ll start with my most petty complaint. I’ve never been to New York City. Like most of the United States, I don’t claim to know, understand, or relate to the very distinct New York cultural feel of the story. This could morph into a discussion of New York elitism in Broadway musicals, but I won’t bite.

In The Heights (2021)

Directed: Jon M. Chu

Written: Quiara Alegría Hudes

Starring: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Berrera, Jimmy Smits, Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz IV, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

In The Heights Image

"…my issue is with the source material, specifically the songs."

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  1. Tom Neff says:

    The second paragraph of this piece leads me to wonder you watched the movie to the end, and whether doing so might have changed your review.

    • Alan Ng says:

      Real quick. The second paragraph was written as it was to not spoil the ending. Personally, I liked the ending. Plus I don’t think anything said in the second paragraph would have made the songs any better.

  2. Marcos says:

    I hate self-conscious reviews like this. What is this, a blog? Talk about the movie, not you!

  3. Diane says:

    I agree with the person who commented that the director is the problem. I love the music and the characters . The chemistry between Benny and Nina was the strongest in my opinion but all the actors were great.But the problem is that this is an intimate story that was overpowered by massive dance numbers, stupid choreography, and awful pacing. I don’t need a city block full of people dancing more than once. Any more than that is overkill. There were songs that were beautiful that became lackluster because of stupid cgi tricks . If we had spent time getting to know Abuela then maybe I would have cared that she died .

  4. Camille says:

    After watching “In The Heights” and reading through the onslaught of glowing reviews I felt nothing less than mystified. People who hadn’t watched the musical (me included) could hardly keep track of character’s names because of just how awkward the pacing was. There was no development at all— and everyone came across as really unlikeable. I’m a huge crybaby (I’ve been known to sob during the Budweiser dog commercials), but couldn’t bring myself to flinch, even during the death of a pretty important character.

    You can’t have a good movie with a rushed plot (if they couldn’t do justice to all of the stories, maybe they should have chosen to only focus on one or two), and you can’t have a good musical without good music (who knew?).

    All of the pretty colors were nice though.

  5. Mike K. says:

    It’s amazing that a movie reviewer has to apologize at the beginning of the review for not liking the movie. Seriously??? What a joke. If you don’t like the movie, you don’t like the movie. Afraid of cancel culture??? Afraid of not being PC enough???? What a disgrace you have to apologize in the first sentence for not liking a movie. This just exemplifies what is wrong with the country. Too many people are afraid to speak up…..when they see someone doing something wrong….when a policy is passed that is wrong. Too scared of the PC police and cancel culture. Grow up….grow a set and just knock it off. This is too the point of ridiculousness. I am glad I am not in a foxhole overseas with this reviewer. He would be trembling with fear afraid to move an inch. EGADS!!!!!!!!

    • Alan Ng says:

      I actually didn’t apologize. I was simply stating I didn’t like the movie because I didn’t like the movie and not as a ploy to drive click bait traffic to our site.

  6. Jj says:

    The director is ultimately in charge of the narrative shape and a cohesive visual look and style. This movie failed on both counts. So I disagree with you. This was not a well directed movie.

  7. Chelsea says:

    Thank you for this review! It’s a relief to read a review that articulates my thoughts about this movie in the face of the overwhelmingly favorable reviews posted by others. I kept thinking I must be the worst person in the world for not liking this film! It is such an over-the-top explosion of gratuitous kitschiness I couldn’t get through the whole thing.

  8. Sean says:

    You liked Cats and not this. Enough said.
    Turn in your badge and don’t return.

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