IN THE HEIGHTS and WEST SIDE STORY

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  • IN THE HEIGHTS and WEST SIDE STORY

    Hollywood is scratching its head. All indications were that IN THE HEIGHTS was supposed to be a blockbuster hit. Surveys showed it was the one movie that would actually get people back into their local cineplex. Its creative force was golden boy, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    And then it opened… to meh.

    It underperformed in both theaters and on HBO Max. Prospects for a rebound are slim.

    So now comes the blame game. There was no recognizable star. The musical wasn’t well-known enough. COVID. Wrong weekend to open. Mercury in retrograde.

    But there was one factor they didn’t list, and I suspect it’s because of how PC-charged the world is now. Could it be that a certain portion of the audience just didn’t want to see it? A musical about inclusion set in New York — in these here Divided States of America, is not a big attraction for everyone.

    I did want to see it. And I have to say I was disappointed. It’s waaaaaaay too long. I also had story problems. There were some high points certainly and a few great songs, but in general it was just a slog. That’s just me. Your results may vary. But maybe that’s a factor Hollywood should also consider — not everyone loved it. And in this social media universe, negative feedback is available to all from all.

    Finally, there is the stupid controversy. The skin shades are not accurate enough for some vocal groups. Things have gotten so absurd that even Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created HAMILTON casting African-American and Latinx actors as our founding fathers, gets accused of being insensitive. So now you have a film that some people feel is too inclusive and others who claim it’s not inclusive enough. Where does this madness end?

    We’re talking a musical here. Giant production numbers with huge crowds dancing in unison on the streets and in a public pool — that’s not an accurate portrayal of Washington Heights either… if you want to nit pick. Nor is unseen orchestras and dancers defying gravity by dancing on building walls. But I don’t see any scientists who are outraged. Repeat after me: It’s a MUSICAL.

    I’ll be interested to see how the upcoming new WEST SIDE STORY, directed by Steven Spielberg does. It is a well-known musical although will kids care about seeing a 60 year-old musical? Will the songs play as classics or anachronistic? No big stars in this reboot. Yeah, in the original Natalie Wood couldn’t sing but she was Natalie Wood. Looking at the trailers of WEST SIDE STORY and IN THE HEIGHTS, they look very similar. WEST SIDE STORY has more depth but also more cobwebs. Time will tell, but if I were Spielberg I’d be saying, “Is there time to do some additional filming and add ET?” Of course, now there would be groups saying ET wasn’t tall enough and the movie should be pulled.



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