Of course, there’s no certainty in that, since the studio (like CNN, a part of WarnerMedia) will continue its practice of simultaneously dropping the film on HBO Max. Whatever the size of the screen, the result is a movie whose old-fashioned charms practically leap off of it, and whose tunes will follow many around for days on end.
The story finds him running the local bodega, trying to make ends meet while pining for Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who has her own aspirations to escape and become a fashion designer. The other key couple shares a past, with Nina (Leslie Grace) coming home from Stanford, uncertain about whether she belongs, and Benny (Corey Hawkins) working for Nina’s father (Jimmy Smits), who is so proud of his daughter’s accomplishments he doesn’t hear her concerns.
The neighborhood itself, meanwhile, is changing, threatening its everybody-knows-your-name charm with gentrification. Usnavi is contemplating a break too, heading back to his native Dominican Republic, although the prospect of romance has a way of complicating even the best-laid plans.
The simplicity of the tale belies the intoxicating nature of the music, from lovely ballads to a showstopping Busby Berkeley-style rendition of “96,000” at the local pool and a beautifully choreographed homage to Fred Astaire. Throughout, the movie bursts with energy and color, with shrewd casting choices from top to bottom, perhaps especially with Grace (a singer making her movie debut) and Barrera (who co-starred in the Starz series “Vida”).
Those films remain unseen, but in terms of fulfilling the promise of its material and setting a high bar, audiences will be well served indeed if any of them manage to scale these “Heights.”
“In the Heights” premieres June 11 in theaters and on HBO Max. It’s rated PG-13.
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