7/10 As a musical lover, I had mixed expectations going into this film adaptation of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical. On one hand, the trailer gave away too much and I was completely unfamiliar with the music from this musical. On the other hand, I knew this came from Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, the songwriters behind “La La Land”, “The Greatest Showman” and more. Keeping an open mind, I watched this film and ended up really enjoying it. Earlier this year, critics raved about how great “In the Heights” was, which was a terrible movie and musical. Flash forward to this and many critics have bashed this film, despite it being light years ahead of “In the Heights”. Just goes to show you can’t trust the buffoons (pardon the strong language) on Rotten Tomatoes. There are some valid criticisms of this film as it is not without its faults and they are worth addressing. Some of the controversy has been around leading actor Ben Platt reprising his Broadway role for this film adaptation, even though he is in his late 20s, playing a high school senior roughly ten years younger than he actually is. While he definitely does look too old for the role, musicals have never placed a strong emphasis on realism. This is a world where people spontaneously break out into song and dance with music playing. This is impossible and unrealistic but we always forgive this in musicals. So forgive me if I’m not outraged that an actor looks a little too old for his part, even if he is. Just add it to the list of unrealistic, fantastical elements that don’t bother me. As for what does bother me, a couple actresses didn’t have the best singing voices which stood out when Platt and the rest of the cast sound phenomenal. There are also mild plot points that make no sense, but have to happen for the film to continue. For example, the way Platt’s lies become exposed happens in an extremely avoidable way that should have never happened, but this film needs the conflict of his lies becoming exposed so they had to force it in an unrealistic reason why. There was also enough Dell product placement that Dell must have paid for half of this movie’s budget (with a little Apple thrown in to balance things out). Finally, despite overall solid direction from Stephen Chbosky, several scenes/musical numbers come off as super over the top and cheesy, particularly the scenes/montages involving social media. I also didn’t buy Platt as a high school senior being shown his viral speech/song video online and asking how many hits it has. As if any high school senior today doesn’t know how social media works and can’t figure out how many views a video has online. While all rather minor complaints, they were still noticeable. That being said, there is a lot to admire and appreciate with this musical, including the most important aspects of a musical…the music and lyrics. While “La La Land” is damn near perfection and “The Greatest Showman” was hit or miss, “Dear Evan Hansen” falls closer to the former. The music and lyrics were extremely strong, catchy and well written. Paul and Pasek continue to impress and I look forward to whatever musical they create or work on next. I loved that the film also had a realistic ending and didn’t fall into the cheesy but unrealistic “happily ever after” ending that many Hollywood films do. Despite a couple performers not having the greatest singing voices, everyone’s acting is excellent across the board and despite Platt not looking his age, his performance is phenomenal and impressed the Hell out of me. The themes about mental health struggles and not being alone resonated with me and were emotionally moving and effective. I’m sure a lot of young adults (high schoolers and college aged kids) can also find some themes that resonate with them. Overall, the fantastic musical elements, strong acting, solid pacing and important, relevant themes overshadow minor complaints with casting or cheesy social media aspects. If you are a fan of musicals, this is a must see. With garbage like “Cats” and “In the Heights”, this is a welcome breath of fresh air as we await Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story”.

#PlattBoy / #WearAsABadgeOfConnor / #PitchPerfectMusic / #TheKidsArentAlright / #TheWomanWavingThroughTheWindow / #TheHateUGetOnline

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