This In The Heights Movie Review is not sponsored.
I was able to get free tickets to an early screening of the upcoming In The Heights movie thanks to gofobo. The movie screening was on Mother’s Day, so I figured it was a good activity to do with my mom.
Well, actually I thought it was something good for the four of us to do together. But then, I watched the In The Heights and there was way more singing than we thought the boys would want to sit through. So my mom and I went ourselves.
We loved it.
It’s been five days and I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack.
In The Heights Movie Review
The In The Heights movie is based on the Broadway show written by and starring Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Now is a good time to interject with this fact: I didn’t know anything about In The Heights before going to the movie. I didn’t know the Broadway show even existed until we googled when we got home. And, obviously, I didn’t know the plot of the Broadway show.
If you have seen the In The Heights Broadway show, the movie is a little different. Without spoiling too much, Nina’s mom doesn’t exist in the movie. So her song, Enough, is cut.
More about the changes later, but for now, let’s talk about In The Heights as a standalone movie for new viewers who, like me, didn’t know about the Broadway show.
In The Heights is set in Washington Heights, New York, a small, predominantly Hispanic section of Manhattan.
If you’ve never been to Manhattan, you’ve probably seen images of the city’s skyscrapers, Times Square with it’s never-ending blinking lights, the tall Empire State Building, and assumed all of NYC is like that.
Most of it is.
But there are pockets like Washington Heights, with its own personality. Washington Heights doesn’t have those tall, modern building. And that’s the charm of these parts of New York.
The feel of New York City is so clean and polished and sterile. But areas like Washington Heights, they have a flare and personality, a culture that runs deeps because of generations of families growing up in the same area.
One of those families was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Well, okay, he grew up in Inwood, which borders Washington Heights, but it’s close enough).
In The Heights is narrated by Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos, Hamilton, A Star Is Born). He is a bodega owner, a job he inherited from his parents after they passed away. He also inherited their dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic, where his family immigrated from when he was single-digits years old.
Usnavi’s bodega, known for its sweet coffee and lotto tickets, its where we are introduced to the majority of the movie’s characters.
There’s Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), Usnavi’s eight-years-younger cousin who helps him run the bodega. Vanessa (Melissa Barrera, Vida), his eternal crush. Benny (Corey Hawkins, Straight Outta Compton) who works for car dispatch owner Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits, How To Get Away With Murder). Rosario is the father of Nina (Leslie Grace), a Stanford University freshman who was the only person to get out of Washington Heights, and who everyone tied their stars to.
And then there’s Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz, who actually plays the role both in the Broadway play and the movie). She’s the barrio’s grandma, not anyone actual grandma since she never had her own kids. She immigrated from Cuba with her mother, learned English, learned to love Nueva York, and carried her mother’s dreams with her.
Of course, there are a few supporting characters too, like Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega) who owns the salon where Vanessa works, and Piragua Guy (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) who sings the song that is stuck in my head all day.
The 2 hour, 23 minute movie is their stories, their dreams, leaving Washington Heights behind.
Usanvi wants to move to the Dominican Republic and open a bar; Vanessa wants to move into downtown Manhattan for a fashion career; Daniela closes her Washington Heights salon because rents are too high and moves it a 10-minute train ride away.
So the question sort of becomes what’s home, a physical place or the happiness within you?
The singing in the movie is phenomenal. Vanessa’s “It Won’t Be Long Now” is my favorite song in the whole movie, but Piragua Guy’s “Piragua” is stuck in my head on repeat … unintentionally. “96,000” and “Carnaval del Barrio” are so fun and fit the entire tone of the movie so well, and because of Nina and Benny’s dancing in the scene where they sang, “When the Sun Goes Down” gives me all the feels.
And I just love “Champagne,” although the fireworks portion of “Blackout” is arguably my favorite section of the soundtrack.
Differences Between In The Heights Movie vs. Broadway Show
So, I came home from the movie and instantly looked for an extended play version of the soundtrack on Spotify. Which didn’t exist (until June 11, the official release date of the movie. As of that date, you can also purchase the In The Heights movie soundtrack online).
This is how I learned of the changes between the movie and Broadway play. And how I learned that in the play, Nina has a mom. She’s on the soundtrack, but her song and character are cut from the movie.
But, let’s be honest. In the song “Enough” (which is in the Broadway show), Camila sings, “One day you’re gonna come back home / And you’re not gonna find me waiting any more.”
So maybe she really made good on that threat and that’s why she’s not in the movie.
(It’s not, but I had to throw that joke in there for the In The Heights stans.)
What songs are cut in the In The Heights movie?
- “Inútil” (Useless)
- “Siempre” (Always)
- “Hundreds of Stories”
- “Everything I Know”
Pieces of “In The Club” are modified and part of the songs is edited for the movie.
What plot points are different in the In The Heights movie?
Spoiler alert. Lots of spoilers here.
But, honestly, if you’re reading this section wondering what plot points are different from the Broadway show, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen the Broadway show and everything has been spoiled anyway.
Let’s start with Nina. She already dated Benny before he broke up with her. That’s a real quick, blink and you miss it, throwaway line in the movie, but it sets up the logic behind changing a huge portion of her plotline.
In the Broadway show, there’s a lot of tension between Benny, Nina’s love interest, and Kevin, Nina’s dad, because Benny isn’t Hispanic. Nina gets mad at her father, sneaks off with Benny, there’s a fight over the car dispatch a tension In The Club before they kiss — a huge resolution for the audience. Then, she stays out all night with Benny and teaches him Spanish, a huge moment for the relationship, showing Benny is trying to be a part of the community.
None of that happens.
There is a fight in the club, but those lines are edited to be a fight between Usnavi and Vanessa. So the song stays pretty true to the lyrics … until you get to the part about looting the store. There’s no looting in the movie.
There is a fight over the car dispatch, and Benny does get mad at Kevin, but it’s so different in the movie.
What’s also different is that Nina finds her way thanks to Sonny inviting her to a DACA/Dreamers protest. That protest and political scene doesn’t exist in the Broadway play, so it obviously doesn’t change Nina’s mind about school.
A very small change is that in “96,000,” Benny sings about Donald Trump being his caddy. In the movie, it’s Tiger Woods.
And, about that $96,000, what happens with it in the movie and the play are completely different.
In The Heights movie info:
2 hours, 26 minutes
Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega; Corey Hawkins as Benny; Leslie Grace as Nina Rosario; Melissa Barrera as Vanessa; Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia; Daphne Rubin-Vega as Daniela; Gregory Diaz IV as Sonny de la Vega; Jimmy Smits as Kevin Rosario.
There are small rolls played by Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine Nine) and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Eagle eyed viewers will notice a cameo by singer Marc Anthony (who does not sing in the musical), Valentina (from Drag Race, who was also in RENT Live), and
Seth Stewart (who played Graffiti Pete on Broadway)
It’s rated PG-13 because there are allusions to sex, although you don’t see anything more than kissing on screen, and adult topics.
It will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on June 11, 2021.
In The Heights movie trailer
If you want a glimpse into the movie, check out the In The Heights movie trailer below.
Movies Similar To In The Heights
If you’re waiting for In The Heights to come out but want to watch something in the meantime, or if you’ve seen In The Heights and you want to watch something similar, we have a few examples for you.
RENT is an award-winning musical that just happens to be my absolute favorite musical of all time. I’ve seen it a trio of times on Broadway, watched the movie adaptation, and watched RENT Live too.
It’s about a collection of friends, mostly artists, who are barely scraping by in New York. They have to figure out how to navigate relationships, jobs, the man, their dreams and ideals, AIDS, and rent. Sounds a little bit like what they’re going through in In The Heights, minus the dying of disease thing.
The songs are phenomenal, and the musical progressions of some of the songs in In The Heights remind me of the way the notes go in RENT.
Nothing beats the Broadway version, and luckily, you can watch it here.
The Greatest Showman
The visuals of In The Heights are stunning. You’re instantly transported to Washington Heights. And if you’ve ever been to that barrio, or something similar, you recognize so many things: the community pool, the rooftops, the chain link fence Nina grabs.
The visuals make the movie. And that’s how it is in The Greatest Showman too. Sure, there’s a rooftop in that movie, and a big top too, but that’s not what I mean. The way the scenes catch your eye and drop you right into the setting is so similar in the movies. Plus, they’re both musicals with incredible songs that you’ll be humming for weeks after.
Watch it here.
Did this In The Heights review help you decide to watch the movie? Let us know what you thought about it in the comments.