In a really crappy summer and a pretty hectic year in Hollywood, one of the bigger releases in 2021 was “In the Heights.” It’s a movie I’d been looking forward to for a long time, since Lin Manuel Miranda is one of my personal heroes. It’s finally brought to film by director Jon M. Chu after being in literal development hell since 2008. Jon M. Chu is no stranger to films involving dancing and urban settings, thankfully, and we’re given an absolutely dazzling, emotional, and energetic musical.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, “In the Heights” is set in Washington Heights, N.Y., and centers on a variety of characters. Usnavi is a bodega owner who pines for Vanessa, the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood have to make life changing decisions that involve their home.
In a year where we’re once again deprived of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, “In the Heights” is a beautiful film that mixes salsa, meringue, bachata, hip hop, and soul in to one riveting celebration of what makes New York so great. Considering most of once prominent urban areas from the city are now being victimized by gentrification, “In the Heights” also takes on a somewhat mythical aesthetic and Chu dives headfirst. He conveys what makes New York so grand and immense, while also celebrating the diversity and community in the process.
The respective cast of Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, Stephanie Beatriz and Dascha Polanco are absolutely fantastic. They manage to grab their respective spotlights while also beautifully creating a chemistry that creates sheer magnetism to the overall production. “In the Heights” is one of my favorite movies of the year. While it ironically promises to be pushed in to the background in favor of the “West Side Story” remake, Jon M. Chu’s adaptation is fantastic from start to finish.
There are about 58 minutes of bonus material, along with a Digital Copy of the film. There’s the forty four minutes Paciencia y Fe: Making In The Heights, which is set into six different sections with a Play All option. This bonus feature covers most aspects of pre-production, shooting on location, casting, performing the songs in the studio, becoming one with the characters and more. Every single cast and crew member gets their time to talk about the film, the history of the neighborhood, their childhood, and the music and choreography. Behind the scenes clips reveal rehearsals, Miranda and Chu talking with the actors, and so much more. Next there are the Sing-Alongs which are the original scenes but with subtitles. There’s the eight In The Heights Sing-Along, the six minutes 96,000 Sing-Along, and the rest are included with the options to Play them All, or On Demand.