Paciencia y fe have paid off for the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical In The Heights. Plans for a film based on the exuberant and lyrically dextrous Broadway show, Miranda’s first hit, date back to 2008, when Universal Pictures was set to produce with Kenny Ortega attached to direct. The production was canceled that same year (reportedly due to the lack of bankable Latinx stars in the cast), then revived in 2016 with the help of (ugh) The Weinstein Company. In the wake of all the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the film rights were picked up by Warner Bros., with Jon M. Chu tapped to direct. Filming finally took place in 2019, and a release date was set for June 26, 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and In The Heights was, like so many other movies, pushed back.
But watching this effervescent movie musical, a loving tribute to the Latinx communities that have made Washington Heights their home, you’d never guess it had such an arduous journey to the big screen. Chu, Miranda, and screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes (the librettist for the original musical) preserve much of the intimacy of the Broadway show while ramping up the splendor and significantly expanding the time frame. Though Miranda reunites with Olga Merediz, who reprises the role she originated on stage, and with Christopher Jackson, an alum of In The Heights and Hamilton,this buoyant adaptation goes beyond merely re-creating its source material for the screen. Here, the timeless quality of Miranda’s original story, which combined wanderlust and an exploration of the Latin American diaspora, meets a timely discussion on dehumanizing immigration policies. Not all of the updates are seamless; some of the meaningful tension from the original is sacrificed for an unambiguously happy ending. Still, In The Heights’ irrepressible energy—transmitted by a big cast of rising stars and veteran performers—is the perfect note on which to kick off this summer’s blockbuster season.