In The Heights is a phenomenally fun, wholly inspirational, and incredibly emotional musical that just takes a hold of the audience from minute one and doesn’t release its melodious grip until the joyous ride through Washington Heights is complete. With all songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it should be no surprise that each lyric holds great meaning to help propel the story forward, and the flow of these songs are just perfection. Add on the gorgeous direction of Jon M. Chu, and the extraordinary cinematography of Alice Brooks and we’ve got ourselves a contender for best picture of the year.
In The Heights is based off of the stage musical of the same name that was created by Miranda (he also starred in it for two years, both on and Off-Broadway) and writer of the book, Quiara Alegría Hudes (who also penned the screenplay for this adaptation,) and it focuses on the predominantly Latino neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York. Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, a young man entering his 30s with big dreams of returning back to the Dominican Republic to fix up and run his late-dad’s bar. He’s not the only one with big dreams though, as the film’s introductory song “In The Heights” points out, with a handful of other colourful characters who share the stage with Usnavi all having their own dreams and desires they hope to see come to fruition, despite odds being against them given where they’re starting from.
There’s Vanessa (Melissa Barrera,) who strives to open her own clothing boutique but is currently stuck working at the neighbourhood salon, then we have Nina (Leslie Grace,) who is viewed as the “one who escaped,” as she was able to get into Stanford through perseverance, scholarships and her dad (Jimmy Smits) selling half his business to help with tuition. She’s returning home after the latest semester when the film begins, but is struggling with telling her dad that she’s dropping out for fear of letting him and the neighbourhood down. Then we have Benny (Corey Hawkins,) who works for Nina’s dad and hopes to rekindle his relationship with her, and lastly Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV,) Usnavi’s cousin who has a passion to fight for social justice.
There are other characters, such as the salon owner Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega,) her girlfriend Carla (Stephanie Beatriz) and Cuca (Dascha Polanco) – all of whom work at the salon with Venessa – but the film mainly revolves around the two couples mentioned above. With that said, one character that can’t be forgotten is Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz.) She’s seen as the Matriarch of the neighbourhood, and she and Usnavi are extremely close.
I cannot put forth enough praise towards these actors for their superb work on this film, with performances that touch your heart. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone, but my tissue box was significantly lighter by the time the show was over. The power and emotion they put into and evoke through their musical numbers is nothing short of astonishing. Miranda’s lyrics are so descriptive and complex, yet they’re sung with such confidence and ease that it’s remarkable and just an absolute pleasure to take in.
Chu’s work behind the camera must be hailed as well, and I’ll put Brooks and choreographer Christopher Scott here also, as the film is just a visually stunning piece. It’s just so vibrant and Washington Heights is given a look where the whole block always seems like it’s full of life. The story is one of hope and looking towards the future and the film’s energetic style just adds to the enchanting vibe that this neighbourhood of captivating characters emits. In The Heights is a triumphant celebration of optimism and hopefulness at a time when we could all use a lot more of it.
4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:
This film looks absolutely stunning in 4K and should be the way to watch it if you’re able. The colourful, vibrant visuals used throughout truly shine in Dolby Vision and HDR10+ and this setup only adds to the beauty that this film has to offer. While the majority of the film is lively and bright, there is a point when a blackout hits, and while the streets are eliminated by fireworks, when the darkness first hits the deep blacks aren’t muddy or distracting. It’s just a vivid spectacle that really excels in this format.
The audio in Dolby Atmos is also brilliant, absolutely surrounding the viewer in song at almost all points of the film. The lyrics and dialogue are crisp and clear, and the score just tears through the room with wonderful impact. This is just a perfect movie to put your TV and speakers to the test when it comes to getting the most out of their performance.
Pacienca y Fe: Making In the Heights – This a 44-minute feature that’s broken up into six parts for fans to enjoy. This really covers most things that people would want to know about the making of the film, from coming off the Broadway show, to casting, to on-set choreography, and so forth. Just packed with materials at a reasonable length. While a commentary track may have been nice to accompany the release, this is a solid multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary for fans to take in when the movie is over.
Sing-Alongs – We’ve got two sing-along pieces here, which just sees two of the songs from the movie (“In The Heights” and “96,000”) get special subtitles for fans to sing along with. The audio drops down to Dolby Digital 2.0, so while it’s an okay edition, I’m not really sure how many will really bother with it.
Musical Numbers – This feature allows the viewer to jump to any of the films major musical pieces, or if you want to play out the songs yourself in a better karaoke style than the above feature, you can put on subtitles and just hit “Play All” and let them all go as you sing along!
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents In The Heights. Directed by: Jon M. Chu. Written by: Quiara Alegría Hudes. Starring: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dashca Polanco, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Running time: 143 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on 4K Blu-ray: Aug. 31, 2021.
Tags: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dashca Polanco, Gregory Diaz IV, in the heights, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Stephanie Beatriz