Lin-Manuel Miranda takes it to the streets with In the Heights. It’s a celebration of a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore and its pure form of nostalgia is as intoxicating as the vibrant colours and exuberant dance moves that fill almost every scene. It’s based on the successful stage musical of the same name that opened on Broadway in 2008.
The heights in the title are Washington Heights a largely Dominican neighborhood in New York City and the main protagonist is Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) the owner of a local bodega. He is a pillar of the community and dreams of a better life while saving money to move back to the Dominican Republic to revive his late father’s seaside establishment.
The neighbourhood is filled with colourful characters and in a departure from reality, never a harsh word is spoken, even the men in blue are friendly. It’s a large ensemble cast and many storylines intertwine throughout the film’s generous 143 minute running time. Some are more interesting than others but the ebullient momentum of the song and dance keeps things entertaining.
File this one under the title of “They don’t make them like that anymore” and its verve and energy is relentless and impressive. From big dance numbers that provide a nod towards the extravaganzas of Busby Berkeley to the more intimate one on one moments, the energy never lapses. You have to love a movie that has a credit list of dancers almost as long as the list of animators on a Marvel film.