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In the Heights - Movie Review

In the Heights

Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu teams up with Tony-Award winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring this year’s most electrifying film to theaters and HBO Max. In the Heights is a beautifully orchestrated celebration of diversity, heritage, and the Latin culture that just might be what the country needs right now to get her back on her feet.

"The entire experience can only be described as magical."

Speaking of getting on our feet, if the toe-tapping musical numbers and rousing dance sequences aren’t enough to have you dancing in the aisles by film’s end, then perhaps being witness to the fine work of veteran actress Olga Merediz is enough to make up for it.

Merediz reprises her Broadway role as Abuela Claudia, the personification of “community” at the center of the titular Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. Strong-willed, friendly, and full of helpful advice for anyone who might need it, Abuela is the heart and soul of the film and Merediz provides one of Hollywood’s biggest moments of the year during a musical number called “Paciencia y Fey” which takes place inside the NYC subway system. She blew my socks off and, I promise, you will be moved by what is most certainly the crowning achievement of her storied career, and a moment that should be mentioned alongside Lady Gaga’s performance of “Shallow” in 2018’s A Star is Born. She’s that good and so is this moment.

In Abuela’s orbit is a group of young dedicated residents of the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, each of whom has a sueñita or “little dream” to fulfill. And that’s the main theme of the film’s plot that centers on the dreams and hopes of Nueva York’s vibrant immigrant community.

There’s Bodega owner Usnavy (Anthony Ramos, Hamilton) who dreams of one day returning to Dominican Republic to rebuild his late father’s bar, and Vanessa (Melissa Barrera, El Hotel), who wants to move to downtown Manhattan to launch her career in fashion design. Nina (Leslie Grace) returns for the summer from her freshman year at Stanford, but struggles to tell her father Kevin (Jimmy Smits) that she wants to come back home for good. Benny (Corey Hawkins, Straight Outta Compton), one of Kevin’s employees aspires to one day own his own business and is hoping to get back with Nina after their relationship fell apart when she went away to college. Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV, TV’s New Amsterdam) is a young undocumented immigrant who hopes to one day change the system.In the Heights

As expected in a neighborhood with such strong community ties, everyone’s story is intertwined in many interesting ways. And much of the fun of watching the film comes from seeing the characters interact. Most of the dialogue is sung-through in either traditional Broadway fashion or, as in Hamilton, with rap lyrics.

But the main thrust of the presentation comes from the pulsing dance and music numbers that liven up the joint by injecting a rich Cuban and Dominican-inspired flair and pizazz. Whether the Busby Berkeley-esque swimming pool extravaganza called “96,000,” the massive street dances where even random passers-by join the fray, or the intricately detailed choreography of the aforementioned song/dance sequence in the New York subways, the film does everything it can to knock your socks off. The entire experience can only be described as magical. Please do yourself a favor and see it in the theater. A spectacle this grand deserves the big screen. You will be glad you did.

The film’s only shortcoming is its bloated runtime which clocks in at a whopping 143 minutes. Trimming that down to a solid two hours would make the film nearly perfect.

In the Heights is an inspirational and moving tribute to the things that many Americans think make our country great. A place where dreams should be nourished, heritage respected, and the diversity of its citizenry celebrated. If life could imitate art, even for a brief moment, Washington Heights and America would be a great place to live. Until that happens, we have In The Heights. We can all dream.

5/5 stars

 Film Details

In the HeightsMPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language and suggestive references.
143 mins
: Jon M. Chu
Quiara Alegría Hudes
Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace
: Musical | Romance
The Time Has Come.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Ignore anyone who doubts you."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
Jun 10, 2021(theaters, HBO Max)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: A film version of the Broadway musical in which Usnavi, a sympathetic New York bodega owner, saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.


In the Heights


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