IN THE HEIGHTS – Review by Susan Granger

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Jon Chu’s In the Heights is the most dazzling movie musical in years! Adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway show, the eye-popping cinematography and awesome choreography make it the summer’s first fun, feel-good movie.

Washington Heights is a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Upper Manhattan near the George Washington Bridge.

Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) runs a small bodega off 181st Street with his young cousin, Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). For years, Usnavi has dreamt of returning to the Dominican Republic to revive his late father’s beachside bar. But he’s infatuated with ambitious Vanessa (Melissa Berrera), who’s passionate about fashion design.

His best friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) loves Nina (Leslie Grace); after her freshman year at Stanford, where she felt marginalized, she tells her father (Jimmy Smits) she wants to drop out and return to the comfort of the vibrant, close-knit barrio community.

Then there’s Usnavi’s elderly Abuela Claudia with Olga Merediz reprising her Tony-nominated role, chronicling the Latina matriarch’s poignant move from Havana to New York.

Unlike Hamilton, a filmed version of the Broadway musical, In the Heights has a several splashy set-pieces. Recalling Busby Berkeley’s synchronized swimming sequences, one shows the entire neighborhood dreaming of what they’d do if they won the lottery while splashing in the massive Highsbridge Pool.

Another is a ‘hat-tip’ to Fred Astaire’s gravity-defying Royal Wedding sequence, as Nina and Benny sing and dance on the side of an apartment building, challenging the laws of physics. Movie magic at its best.

Adapted/updated by Quiara Alegria Hudes, who wrote the original book, and directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), the specificity of its layered roots ring true. The cleverly rhymed rap music complexity of each number propels the plot/theme, illuminating the Latino immigrant experience for a mainstream audience.

Alice Brooks’ cinematography, Christopher Scott’s choreography and Nelson Coates’ production design are outstanding, plus there’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cameo as the Piragua Guy, selling icy treats.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, In the Heights is a heartwarming, jubilant 10. See it in theaters or on HBO Max.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.