I was debating about this movie, but after hearing about it receiving very positive reviews, I gave it a chance, based on the Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and Quiara Alegría Hudes, directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3D, Now You See Me 2, Crazy Rich Asians). Basically, Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos), named after an American vessel saying "U. S. Navy", tells his story to a group of children about his time in Washington Heights, New York. Years earlier, Usnavi is the owner of a neighbourhood bodega (convenience store). He introduces: Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the neighbourhood matriarch and woman who raised him after the death of his parents; Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits), who runs a taxi company; Kevin's employee Benny (Corey Hawkins); the salon ladies Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega), Carla (Stephanie Beatriz), and Cuca (Dascha Polanco); Usnavi's unrequited crush Vanessa (Melissa Barrera); and his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) ("In the Heights"). Attorney and family friend Alejandro (Mateo Gómez) informs Usnavi his late father's business in the Dominican Republic, which he dreams of reviving, is for sale. Meanwhile, Kevin's daughter Nina (Leslie Grace) has returned from Stanford University. After seeing Benny ("Benny's Dispatch"), she finds her father, she tries to tell him she cannot pay tuition, but he ignores her, telling her not to worry ("Breathe"). Daniela is moving her salon to the Bronx due to rent going up. Nina arrives for a treatment, but reveals she has dropped out of Stanford, and leaves ("No Me Diga"). Vanessa dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but her downtown rental application is rejected ("It Won't Be Long Now"). She heads to Usnavi's shop, where Sonny asks her out for him. The results of a lottery, with a $96,000 prize, has been announced, and Sonny learns that the winner bought the ticket from the bodega. At the public swimming pool, everybody in the neighbourhood fantasises about what they would do with the money ("96,000"), while Piragüero, the (ice lollies) Piragua Guy (Lin-Manuel Miranda) laments how he has lost business to a Mister Softee ice cream truck ("Piragua"). That weekend, Benny and Nina reminisce about their childhoods. She expresses her doubts and fears, but he reassures her she is destined for greatness ("When You're Home"). Meanwhile, Usnavi talks to Sonny's father about Sonny coming with him to the Dominican Republic, but Sonny's father implies he and Sonny are undocumented immigrants and cannot leave. That evening, Kevin reveals he sold his business to pay for Nina's tuition. But she is outraged, refuses the money and storms out. Usnavi and Vanessa head to the salsa club for their date, with Benny and Nina. At the club, Usnavi is nervous and declines a dance with Vanessa. A man steals her away for a dance, allowing multiple men to dance with her. Wanting to make Vanessa jealous, Usnavi dances with another woman ("The Club"). Then there is a neighbourhood power cut, and Sonny and Graffiti Pete (Noah Catala) light up fireworks, illuminating the neighbourhood. Vanessa and Usnavi argue, and she rejects him ("Blackout"). Meanwhile, Abuela lies in bed reminiscing about her childhood in Cuba, and how she came to New York, enduring hardships to be where she is today ("Paciencia y Fe"). She dies that night, and the neighbourhood gather to mourn and sing her praises ("Alabanza"). At a protest for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy), Sonny learns that he cannot go to college, as he is an undocumented immigrant. Learning this, Nina resolves to go back to Stanford to help him and other undocumented immigrant children. Usnavi finds Vanessa's rental application in the trash and goes to Daniela to ask her to co-sign it. Disappointed with the block's negativity over the blackout and Abuela's death, Daniela rouses the neighbourhood into a celebration ("Carnaval del Barrio"). The blackout ends at the moment the song concludes. A month later, Nina is about to return to Stanford. Benny promises to find a way to join her in Palo Alto, and they kiss ("When the Sun Goes Down"). As Usnavi prepares to leave for the Dominican Republic, he discovers that Abuela had the winning lottery ticket, and left it to him. Vanessa arrives with champagne, having found out that Usnavi got Daniela to co-sign on her lease. He refuses when she suggests staying, she kisses him, and confesses her feelings for him, although it is too late ("Champagne"). After leaving, Vanessa sees a number of paint drip sheets on the ground that Pete does not need, she is inspired to use them for clothing material and asks to take them. Usnavi gives Alejandro the lottery ticket to use to pay for Sonny's DACA fees. Later, Vanessa takes Usnavi to the bodega and shows him a fashion line she created the previous night from the sheets. Seeing Pete's mural in the store, celebrating Abuela, Usnavi decides to stay. The story returns to the present day, where Usnavi is not on a beach in the Dominican Republic, he is telling his story in the remodelled bodega, and one of the children is Usnavi and Vanessa's daughter. They sing and dance in the street ("Finale"). In a post-credits scene, the Mister Softee truck breaks down and the Piragüero celebrates his victory by raising his prices ("Piragua (Reprise)"). Also starring Marc Anthony as Gapo, Patrick Page as Pike Phillips, Olivia Perez as Iris, Analia Gomez as Rosa, Dean Scott Vazquez as Sedo and Mason Vazquez as Miggy. The cast of predominantly Latino stars all get their moments in the spotlight, it is a little long but a nice simple story, the use of colour and costume looks terrific, many of the songs are catchy, and the choreography is stupendous, especially the inventive dance sequence on the side of the apartment building, overall, a worthwhile musical drama. Very good!
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