‘In the Heights’ soars to its own heights


Usnavi, Benny, Sonny and Graffiti Pete in Washington Heights.

“A dream isn’t some sparkly diamond we get. Sometimes, it’s rough. And it’s not so pretty.”

These lines from Usnavi, a bodega owner in Washington Heights who dreams of moving to the Dominican Republic, embody the spirit of the film “In the Heights,” adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical. 

Despite the backlash I’m sure I’m going to receive, I’ll say this up front. I can say wholeheartedly that “In the Heights” is a more enjoyable work overall than “Hamilton,” Miranda’s most famous musical. 

I’m sorry! It’s true. Don’t get me wrong. “Hamilton” is extremely impressive. The choreography, the technical aspects, the rhyme scheme and the plot are all incredible and deserve recognition. 

However, the music and heart that “In the Heights” offers is, in my opinion, more compelling than “Hamilton.” 

But I’m going to stop comparing the two because “In the Heights” deserves to be thought of on its own, not constantly measured against Miranda’s other accomplishments. 

The music in this film is simply incredible. Perhaps I’m biased because I listen to musical theater, and I had already heard the soundtrack, but the salsa-hip hop combination featured in the music is so pleasing to listen to. I highly recommend the opening number and “Paciencia Y Fe.” 

Performances by Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, Corey Hawkins as Benny, Olga Merediz as Abuella and Leslie Grace as Nina maintain the heart of the story on the screen that made it so appealing on stage more than a decade ago. 

So is it worth a watch? Absolutely. Just a word of advice: Don’t try and compare the film to “Hamilton.” It deserves to be judged of its own merits. 

Grade: A-

This story originally ran in the print edition of the Pelham Examiner.