In the Heights

In the Heights ★★★½

In all honesty, In The Heights does about as decent of a job as this type of hyper-mainstream musical can do in constructing semi-nuanced Dominican and Puerto Rican characters who radiate warmth, compassion, and buoyancy. This is obviously a project that comes from a place of love. And yet, I'm simply so averse to the syrupy tone of 'four-quadrant' musicals that I finished the film feeling guiltily satisfied, incredibly icky, and mean-spirited. Thus, with this caveat out in the open, here is my unfairly cynical take:

Vibrant & bursting with sugar-coated politics and watered-down diversity, In The Heights is a two-and-a-half hour product placement commercial for Coca-Cola and Hollywood's self-congratulatory commitment to banking off themes of inclusivity. With all respects to the beautiful cast, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who all put a lot of heart in this), the end product just felt diluted, cheesy, and pandering: a summertime confection following closely in the tonal tradition of the recent Mama Mia franchise.

Flaunting a candied message of empathy and heritage, it will certainly be a crowd pleaser for many. Its dance sequences smartly take their cue from Bollywood: capturing huge outdoor dance numbers with swooping aerial shots. I'm sure rivaling studio execs will be reeling with envy. But I, for one, would have appreciated an exponentially more authentic sense of Washington Heights. It wasn't awful by any means, but its stereotype-laden archetypes left me with cavities and a sweet tooth for future films that will hopefully capture the ethos and spirit of the Latinx community with a bit more substance and delicacy.

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