‘Within the Heights’ makes use of bold sequences, however operating time turns into bloated | Leisure

In his first film since the smash hit “Crazy Rich Asians”, director Jon M. Chu brings his Broadway hit “In the Heights” to the screen with Tony award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda.

If you like your musicals flashy, long and chaotic, “In the Heights” will surely satisfy the missing item at the box office. A film about dreams, culture and family, Miranda and Chu incorporate some of the actors from the Broadway production and new faces to create an eclectic cinematic experience.

Anthony Ramos from “A Star is Born” and “Hamilton” take the lead here. He channeled some of John Leguizamo into singing and charisma. Olga Merediz repeats her Tony nominated performance and almost steals the film with limited screen time. Some of the actors work better than others, but the movie’s biggest downside is the running time, which drags on after the 90 minute mark.

“The best days of my life,” Usnavi (Ramos) says every morning, staring at the photos of him and his father in the Dominican Republic. Usnavi dreams of returning to his Caribbean island and rebuilding his father’s bar, which has now been in ruins.

This decision is not easy, he has built a life in the heights, his Abuela, Claudia (Merediz) was like a mother and half a block for him. The girl of his dreams visits the family’s own bodega every day, where he gives Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) a free coffee, but he does not confess his love. With his finances finally to get one step closer to his dream, it would also mean giving up on someone else.

If you know what Sing-Talking is, In the Heights will start right away. Most dialogues are sung and not spoken in addition to the musical numbers. Some of the numbers occur in simple settings as you might expect: a salon or the bodega. Others, however, are more like cinematic flash dance sequences; like in a public swimming pool or in the middle of the street.

No spectacle here will convert someone who doesn’t like musicals, this is not a game changer like “Moulin Rouge” or “Chicago”. Which is a nice way to say that there is no real award potential here.

“In the Heights” strives for great moments, but is always a bit shy of blowing you off the theater seat, and a theater is certainly the place where you should see such spectacles.

Some of the scenes lean further towards the imagination than seems necessary in view of the subject matter. As in most musicals, there are elements of love and relationship scattered among different characters, but the film is strongest when it advocates culture, diversity, and heritage. Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asian’s” was also an ensemble with romantic elements, colorful interludes and a long running time, “In the Heights” is both more ambitious and bloated.

“In the Heights” will hit theaters on June 11th.

Final thought: While “In the Heights” is ambitious with memorable musical sequences, its running time might leave some a bit exhausted.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor for Texas Art & Film, based in Galveston. visit texasartfilm.com.