• Strictly Films

In the Heights; Grade: C+

In the Heights tells a story about a few dreamers living in New York, on a block called Washington Heights. But this wasn’t just no everyday block, no this block was made of… MUSIC! One dreamer Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) envisions a life back in the Caribbean restoring his father old establishment, Nina (Leslie Grace) is contemplating on her future as she doesn’t feel at home at Stanford, and Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) envisions a career as being a fashion designer… As we completely forget she had a desire for fashion designing within minutes. Witness a film based around a friendly neighborhood community, that embarks the true meaning of family and friendship.

In the Heights as a story alone without all the musical numbers is actually pretty decent, especially when it comes to some character development within our characters. The character I believe that was developed the best was Nina and how she gotten to her finale destination. It was a nice sincere message as although you may not feel at home or don’t fit in, that doesn’t mean you should toss away a grand opportunity, where that grand opportunity can put you in a position to help people of your kind. The whole community ordeal was kind of sweet on it’s own, I like how everyone was in someway involved with everyone, as it was one gigantic family. It really makes sense as to why some of these characters have a troubling time, moving on from the place they grew up with… Hard to leave a place you have a rare special connection with behind.

The theme of this film can feel wholesome, as I felt it was all about you don’t have to leave in order to achieve something of yourself, you can achieve something of yourself where you’re currently at and can even help improve the place you live for the better. It’s done well with the characters Usnavi and Vanessa, it even does so with Nina though it can feel contradictory by what happens with this character in the end, however her moral purpose in her decision is suppose to impact her block so it ties in well. I think majority of the characters were well written and mostly likable, there are quite a few sequences between characters that felt genuinely sweet, especially the whole get together scene before Usnavi and Vanessa hit the club up.

The main strengths of this film includes the set design and choreography. I believe the world created within In The Heights was top notch, as in a way felt similar to the likes of Hey Arnold in a way, a truly authentic neighborhood. For a film that is supposedly trying to capture the heart and soul of a block nearby Queens… It’s picture perfect I must say. I loved choreography in this film, I think majority of the dance numbers within the musical numbers outshines the musical aspect. The dancing is quite excellent, all the dancers and actors were in total sync as I can even say carries the musical numbers.

As you know: I’m not much of a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda when it comes to his music. I recognize the talent he has within the music department, however the music he makes can feel extremely repetitive, over barring, and even at times a snooze fest. I just don’t care for his style at all, but at least I give respect and when the music is actually good to my liking, I give credit as I did say the music in Hamilton is good.

My biggest issue with In the Heights as I felt musical aspect… Really weighed down this film for me. I think there is maybe one or two musical numbers that I felt were listenable at best, but as the rest of them… MEH! I felt majority of the rapping to be totally obnoxious, I love rap but with regards to Lin’s rapping method it can be incredibly unnecessary and the style can drive me nuts. Some of the rapping sequences you tend to question “Why couldn’t the characters just have a regular moment of having a conversation?! Why does it have to be a rap musical number?!” Speaking of which: There are even musical moments that have singing, that didn’t need to be sung in the first place, it could literally just be characters given regular dialogue. I mean the whole finale between Usnavi and Vanessa singing about Cold Champagne and singing about their current situation?! That was totally ridiculous, we didn’t need a song for that at all. Let the film BREATHE man.

The best musicals are the ones whom have balance. You want to have a consistent balance between non musical sequences and musical sequences, that way it’s not over barring. Because when a musical is over barring with too much music… Your train of thought within the focus of the film’s story is thrown off or you’re simply just over it. With In The Heights it’s way too much music and I mean WAY TOO MUCH MUSIC, as they didn’t really gives this story much time to breathe off the music, and given the fact this is over 2 hours?! I mean it’s unacceptable, how can I follow along with the story if you’re going to give me a song within every minute?! “But it’s a musical, that’s how the story is told.” In some capacity yes, but when it gets over barring like this, it’s hard to remain focused on the story when your consistently distracted by a freaking song. I prefer balance within my musicals.

There are quite several issues with the characters themselves as well. I think the whole conflict with Usnavi and Vanessa at the club was extremely childish, mainly on Usnavi’s end. Usnavi is ticked off at Vanessa because she’s dancing with other guys, even though Usnavi gave her permission, then tries to get back at Vanessa and dance with other girls… Are you Five Years Old?! Vanessa is out here having a harmless dance and you out here crying because it’s not with you… THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU DANCE WITH HER IN THE FIRST PLACE?! Usnavi gets confused why Vanessa is upset with him at the end, as not only Usnavi played that toddler like behavior on her, he also kept refusing to dance with her… If I’m a dime piece like a Vanessa, giving an ungrateful scrub like you a shot on taking me out, as the entire time you avoid me… DAMN STRAIGHT I’M GOING TO BE PISSED! Vanessa deserves better and Usnavi gotta stop acting like a clueless idiot.

The film does do a fairly good job in regards of Vanessa’s dream of becoming a fashion designer. It was explained by Usnavi briefly during the introduction of her character, but during the whole duration you completely forget about it as you kept thinking the entire time, Vanessa’s dream to secure a studio apartment. Like there is any indication that Vanessa wants to be a fashion designer at all after we’re told she wants to be one, till the finale at least as you go “Oh yeah… I forgot that was her initial dream!” I was confused the entire time thinking what’s so special about her dream, of having an over priced studio apartment?! The inconsistency of characters handling the heat speaks volume. You got characters crying about it being 82 degrees, then at a moment later they’re wearing jeans, leggings, and jackets in 100 degree weather like it’s no problem… MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!

The worst character in this entire film… Lin-Manuel Miranda’s character the snow cone man. Now this character can easily be a likable simple character, bringing you back the good ole days of a snow cone man bringing the cold goods on a hot summer day. But Lin-Manuel Miranda thought to himself, “Nah let’s piss off the audience and have majority of my scenes extremely cringe!” Like every time this character comes about randomly, I have to prepare myself because I’m about to witness a fool making a fool out of himself. One sequence that ruined this entire character for me, was when he got butt hurt over a custard truck coming along taking his business, as he poured snow cone flavoring syrup all over a child's ice cream cone… WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! How the hell do you mess up a minimal jolly likable character like the snow cone man?! That whole sequence now makes this character unlikable, as he not only disgrace the greatest dessert in the world but also wrecks a defenseless child’s frozen treat, like this character SUCKS!

I think if this film didn’t have any musical numbers, as we’re basing it on a story alone, I think it could easily be a good film because the story does have meaning and heart behind it. But unfortunately the musical aspect of the film totally weighs it down for me, as it almost wrecked the entire experience for me.

Overall, In the Heights was an average film. I at least recommend checking this one out, on a story alone it’s worth a watch and if you can get behind the musical aspect you may enjoy it a lot.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is again in some “Backlash” regarding a film he’s involved with, only this time Lin-Manuel Miranda has come out as a total embarrassment as an end result. It’s one thing to value the opinion of your family, friends, and Lin in the business he’s in, valuing the opinion of film critics, which rightfully determine if your film brings eye to the attention if your film is worth seeing or not and can grant you grand accomplishments in future gigs and awards. But to value the opinion of those whom sit behind a computer screen all day long, inciting/influencing hatred, negativity, ignorance, and violence in the world, while also having absolutely no value in having an opinion on film itself… It’s disappointing. There was absolutely no need for an apology, Lin the only thing you actually did wrong was feeling guilty by a group of insecure immature spoiled rotten babies on the internet, that’s exactly what people on Twitter are and the fact we have the audacity, to value anything they say is inexcusable, as they’ve made a downward impact on life itself. There is no need to feel shame with regards of the film you made, if your group of loved ones and yourself are proud of it, then that should only matter, the critique reception from critics is just a plus. Lin your like a decade older than me, you should know well enough about life, that pleasing everyone is utterly pointless, especially those who don’t benefit your well being. Not everyone is going to like or approve of you and you know what?! That’s ok, who cares, human beings are extremely difficult and complicated as it is. You’re a successful human being, with family and friends that love you, that should be enough, ignore the criticism and just continue moving forward. Lin let this be a lesson… Get a backbone and don’t value opinions that don’t mean jack shit, you’re better than that man. -Mitch Smietana

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