In the Heights

In the Heights ★★★★

So exuberant and full of life that it would probably convince you the movies were back even if they hadn’t gone anywhere, “In the Heights” is the kind of electrifying theatrical experience that people have been waxing nostalgic about ever since the pandemic began — the kind that it almost seemed like we might never get to enjoy again. In that sense, Jon M. Chu’s super glossy Broadway adaptation hits with equal parts rapture and relief. Seeing this massive, guileless, heartfelt piece of Hollywood entertainment on the big screen is like coming home after a long year in exile only to find that it’s still there, and maybe even better than you remembered.

Someone kept the lights on. Someone held on to the idea that certain things are larger than life. Someone preserved the honey-sweet (and slightly embarrassed) vertigo that sweeps over your whole body when you sit in a dark room and surrender to a good musical. And make no mistake: The most ecstatic stretches of “In the Heights” don’t merely suspend disbelief, they change the gravity of the world around you.

This is the story of a New York City block that’s on the brink of disappearing, and it naturally carries an extra charge now that its medium is as delicate as its message. Then again, the threat of commercialized self-erasure has been cooked into Miranda’s anti-gentrification lament since he wrote the first drafts of it as an undergrad at Wesleyan.

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