When the Sun Goes Down

In the Heights isn’t the musical revival it wanted to be. After Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda could do no wrong. 2021 was a packed year for him that began with his very first Broadway production, In the Heights. I never heard of the musical, but an adaptation was considered even before Hamilton was created. Miranda’s bankability and Hollywood’s recent obsession with diversity made it the right time for a movie. Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu took the reigns and the musical received a major promotional push. Whether it was lack of interest, the Pandemic, or HBO Max’s simultaneous streaming scheme, but In the Heights bombed at the box-office. Reviews were predictably in the 94% range. Much like Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights also feels overhyped and not a Best Picture contender like people thought.

Anything In the Heights does, West Side Story (2021) does better, but I still liked parts of the former. In Washington Heights, Manhattan the streets are made of music and everyone in the community has an el sueñito (dream). Even a movie with a majority Hispanic cast can still be targeted for not having enough afro-latino characters. Miranda’s lead role of Usnavi was given to his younger Hamilton co-star Anthony Ramos. Though Miranda still has a bit part as a snowcone sailsman. Usnavi is a bodega owner who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic. Melissa Barrera plays Usnavi’s love interest Vanessa who dreams of becoming a fashion designer. The other couple is the non-hispanic Corey Hawkins as dispatcher Benny and newcomer Leslie Grace as college dropout Nina.

There’s also the communities Abuela Claudia, Usnavi’s cousin Sonny with big dreams, Nina’s father who wants a better life for his daughter, and the sassy salon girls. A winning lottery ticket brings everyone together, but rising heat and an incoming blackout threatens everything. Dealing with a changing neighborhood is true to the musical, but In the Heights was made a bit more heavy handed with added problems like racism and undocumented immigration. The titular song “In the Heights” and the catchy “96,000” are fun starter songs, but the musical really starts meandering after awhile. The romantic “When the Sun Goes Down” is the only inventive song with a gravity defying dance number. In the end, In the Heights has more energy than skills.

In the Heights

Usnavi dances with Vanessa

2 thoughts on “When the Sun Goes Down

  1. I’ve heard of the title before, but I think it might of been for a briefly lived TV Series back in the day. Lin Manuel Miranda is an underrated talent I believe, he just seems like he’s hit or miss when it comes to Hollywood.

    Liked by 1 person

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