Two hours of the man himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda and his deafeningly poor tones. Delightful. In the Heights may not feature the man on screen for all that long or even off it, but the production credit alone is more than enough to stir up the aftershock that comes from his involvement. What a shock indeed. Not a shock in the traditional sense of sudden delight, more in the sense of anguished pain, realising what it means for In the Heights and the musical genre as a whole. It means little to anyone that is not a theatre kid, a Miranda fan or a fool. But, then, In the Heights is built on the brains of commercialisation, and the hearts of wilted musicians.
Bless those hearts. They are the foolish trendsetters that try so hard to fall so far. In the Heights is colourful, tacky and just a tad obnoxious. What a tragedy of a middle-class soliloquy this feature is. Whether to retire to your beautiful homeland or to stay in the new family and home carved out by hard work in a niche industry. Bodega businesses are not the booming investment they once, probably, were. In the Heights fails to mention that winkle of doubt in the economic industry. But it also fails to mention that its characters are flat, as are its tunes. They are dangerously close to useless, but that should be expected from the Miranda experience.
A gluttonous affair, and not a strong one. At the very least, when a hack exposes themselves as having an interest in something, audiences can hope to be taken along for the ride. That is not the case for In the Heights, which spends a bulk of its running time with uncoordinated plotlines and tone-deaf recordings. It is the theatre of screams that provokes and prods at the audiences not delighted and enlightened by the musical numbers. Its grating colour palette and uppity attitude to the world around it is grating and uncontrollably horrid. That often-present matriarch and the following of the footsteps of the forefather’s theory is presented by director John M. Chu. Amicably so. There is little else to be done with such a process, other than the usual tiptoe of inevitable, commercialised success and the reprise that follows the ironic, half-hearted throwback to the major issue that now amounts to a tiny problem.
Sickly and predictable, In the Heights is particularly loathsome because of how empty, hollow and jolly it is. Awards contender this is not, and rightfully so. Even beyond its deep dive into controversy, In the Heights stands for nothing and will apply little of the real-world values to its sugar-coated, glossy fictional future within. Why would it? Reality doesn’t sell. Dancing in the streets with no care for tomorrow and a seething, eased ability to trip into lucky chances others would crave is the world these caricatures live in. It is far and away from reality. So why does In the Heights spend so much of its time deliberating on real-world issues, pragmatic discussion is not on the cards for a feature that breaks out into flash mobs, dreadful songs and poor performances.