In the Heights centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door, pines for 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, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood get a dose of what it means to be home. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Did you love the musical In the Heights and want more? Well, your wish has come true and you can have more because In the Heights is now a movie! It has the same great soundtrack and is even more action packed.” See her full review below.  

In the Heights

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Did you love the musical In the Heights and want more? Well, your wish has come true and you can have more because In the Heights is now a movie! It has the same great soundtrack and is even more action packed.

In the Heights is about Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner, and his disappearing neighborhood in New York City, specifically Washington Heights. Small businesses are moving away; people are leaving; and Usnavi is going back to his home in the Dominican Republic to help his family. What will happen when Usnavi leaves?

This movie is based on the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and musical, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda – both titled with the same name. The music is phenomenal and very memorable because it makes you want to get up and dance. While writing this review, I still have all the songs stuck in my head.  Lin-Manuel Miranda also plays the Piragua Guy. Along with the music, the choreography is outstanding, particularly the group choreography – a mix of hip-hop and Latinx styles. Everyone is in sync and energetic. The scenes are very detailed, artistic and beautiful, with so much color. The acting is beyond amazing and every character is so believable and loveable. Anthony Ramos, as Usnavi, stands out and seems very genuine. Melissa Barrera, as Vanessa, shows so much perseverance for her dreams. Leslie Grace’s Nina is passionate as she deals with her character’s conflicts. My favorite character is Abuela Claudia because she is so loving to all, and she reminds us to have paciencia y fe (patience and faith). The characters speak Spanish at times during the film, so it helps if you have some knowledge of the Spanish language, but it’s not essential to enjoying the movie.

The main message is that sueñitos (little dreams) aren’t always easy; you have to work for them. In the Heights addresses some serious topics like attending college and dealing with racial bias as a minority. This movie has some profanity and suggestive references.

I give In the Heights 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters or on HBO Max June 11, 2021.

Keywords: Jon M. Chu, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alice Brooks, Stephanie Beatriz, Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Dascha Planco, Corey Hawkins, Chris Jackson, Daymien Valentino, Daphne Rubin-Vega, marc Anthony, Alex Wong, Olga Merediz, Valery Lessard, Gregory Diaz IV

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