DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Jon M. Chu
Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace
Writing Credits:
Quiara Alegría Hudes

New York bodega owner Usnavi saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Dolby Vision
English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby 5.1
English Descriptive Audio (US)
English Descriptive Audio (UK)
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Castillian Dolby 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 143 min.
Price: $44.98
Release Date: 8/31/2021

• “Paciencia y Fe” Documentary
• 2 Sing-Alongs
• Direct Access to Musical Numbers
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


In the Heights [4K UHD] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 31, 2021)

2015’s Hamilton made Lin-Manuel Miranda a borderline household name. Though that musical brought him to the attention of the masses, Miranda debuted with 2008’s In the Heights, another stage production that won multiple Tonys, even if it didn’t become a pop culture phenomenon ala Hamilton.

In the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights, Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) operates a bodega. However, he desires to return to the Dominican Republic and resume the business run by his late father.

While Usnavi works toward that goal, he pines for a romance with Vanessa Morales (Melissa Barrera), a local beautician. We follow his personal life and interactions with neighbors and friends along with their own hopes/aspirations.

Confession time: I’m one of the seven people who didn’t much care for Hamilton. Granted, musicals don’t possess immense appeal to me, but that project earned so much acclaim that even I felt the need to see it, so I went when the stage production came to my area in 2018.

I thought it was… okay. I didn’t dislike the time I spent with Hamilton, but I admit I could never figure out why it got so much attention and praise.

Did this influence my potential opinion of Heights? Perhaps, but I think Miranda’s debut encountered more of a steep climb with me due to my lack of love for musicals than because Hamilton left me semi-cold.

Actually, I went into Hamilton with higher hopes because at least the subject matter interested me. As a lifelong student of history, I thought its take on events would give it an intriguing spin, even though I knew it would take obvious liberties.

Heights comes with no obvious hook of this sort – indeed, it barely presents a plot. Really, we follow the characters’ journeys, with an emphasis on their dreams and attempts to bring these hopes to reality.

If one expects to find anything insightful or clever in terms of stories and the various roles, one will encounter disappointment. Heights does little to expand on the personalities and make them especially three-dimensional.

Not that Usnavi and company seem unlikable or problematic, as they maintain basic charm. However, the parts remain simplistic and cliché.

As does the whole “story”, really, for Heights brings nothing much to the basic narrative of working class people who struggle to get by. Oh, the film dabbles in politics a bit, mainly related to the treatment of immigrants and minorities, but it never goes too deep in this regard.

Instead, Heights stays on the surface in basically all ways, from its drama to its romance to its themes. It touches on rudimentary notions but never digs into them with much conviction.

Perhaps Heights would fare better if it offered a tighter focus. Again, while we spend more time with Usnavi than anyone else, the movie covers so many roles that it spreads too thin.

Maybe this works on stage, but on the screen, the end result simply seems disjointed. Do we really need a song from the POV of the dude who sells flavored ice, even if Miranda himself plays the part?

Nope, and director Jon M. Chu fails to find a way to bring life to the project. Best known for Crazy Rich Asians, Chu actually has done plenty of work in the music vein but oddly, he shows little ability to make Heights zing.

In Chu’s hands, the musical numbers feel flat and without real spark. The film gives them rudimentary coverage but never manages to make the singing and dancing pop like it should.

At least Melissa Barrera brings impact to her scenes, mainly because she’s one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen. Wow!

At no point does Heights become a chore to watch, but it also never turns into anything memorable or engaging. This feels like an ordinary musical and nothing more.

Footnote: a tag scene with the flavored water dude shows up after the end credits.

The Disc Grades: Picture A+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

In the Heights appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. A true 4K product, this Dolby Vision presentation dazzled.

Overall definition looked positive. Softness never became a problem, as the film appeared consistently well-defined.

No issues with moiré effects or jaggies materialized, and I witnessed no signs of edge haloes or source flaws.

Despite a mild slant toward amber/teal, the film often opted for other hues as well, and these added vivacity to the proceedings. The colors boasted strong range and impact, and HDR added power to the tones.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, while low-light shots offered good smoothness and clarity. HDR gave whites and contrast extra energy. Ultimately, this turned into a simply stunning image.

In addition, the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack suited the material. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, music dominated the proceedings, and the many songs used the various channels in an involving manner.

Effects had less to do, as they focused mainly on ambience. Given the emphasis on music, that was fine, and the sides/surrounds provided enough material to succeed.

Audio quality also pleased. Again, music became the most dominant aspect of the mix, and the songs/score boasted fine range and impact.

Speech came across as natural and concise, whereas effects seemed accurate and realistic. Nothing here dazzled, but the track worked for the movie.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the In the Heights? Audio remained identical, as both came with the same Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

On the other hand, the 4K’s Dolby Vision presentation made an attractive image even better, with superior colors, definition, and visual range. Shot with 7K cameras and finished 4K, this became a reference quality picture that stands among the small handful of the best UHDs on the market.

As we shift to extras, only one feature shows up on the 4K disc itself. Musical Numbers offers direct access to the film’s 17 tunes, and it also allows the viewer to watch them consecutively via “Play All”.

The remaining extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, and the main attraction comes from Paciencia y Fe, a six-part documentary that spans a total of 43 minutes, 59 seconds.

It presents notes from composer/creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer Quiara Alegría Hudes, director Jon M. Chu, director of photography Alice Brooks, choreographer Christopher Scott, associate choreographers Dana Wilson, Ebony Williams, Eddie Torres Jr., Princess Serrano and Emilio Dosal, executive music producer Alex Lacamoire, music supervisor Steven Gizicki, and actors Stephanie Beatriz, Jimmy Smits, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Anthony Ramos, Dascha Polanco, Melissa Barrera, and Leslie Grace.

“Fe” looks at the project’s origins and move to the screen, the stage production’s adaptation and Chu’s approach, sets and locations, cast and performances, choreography, music, and related areas.

Though we get a decent overview of the production, “Fe” comes awfully heavy on happy talk, as we hear nearly relentless praise for the project and all involved. The documentary brings some good notes, but a lot of this material winds up buried beneath all the fluff.

Musical Numbers offers direct access to the film’s 17 tunes, and it also allows the viewer to watch them consecutively via “Play All”. Finally, we get Sing-Along versions of “In the Heights” and “96,000”. These just take the movie scenes and lay lyrics over the bottom of the screen.

For all the praise given to the musicals of Lin-Manual Miranda, I admit I don’t find much greatness from them, and In the Heights fails to change that view. While a competent and moderately engaging project, Heights lacks much real spark or impact. The 4K UHD boasts reference-quality visuals and very good audio as well as a documentary about the production. Miranda fans will likely enjoy Heights but I can’t claim it does much for me.

To rate this film visit the prior review of IN THE HEIGHTS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main