NEW YORK -- The long wait to see the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights" is over, after the release of the movie based on the Broadway show was delayed by the pandemic for a year.
Now, it arrives to big buzz and predictions it may help to get everyone back in the habit of going to the movies. But does it live up to the hype?
The original musical helped make theater relevant again for a generation coming of age in the 21st century, and it also paved the way for the mega hit 'Hamilton" -- which is fitting because both were created by Miranda.
Many fans were afraid the movie version couldn't equal the excitement of the stage production, but the film puts those fears to rest.
The show is a celebration of New York City -- and one particular Manhattan neighborhood in particular, and the love letter to Washington Heights is sent directly from there.
"I always felt like I was sitting on a secret growing up," Miranda said. "You don't hear Washington Heights referenced much in popular culture. You know, you take the A train to Harlem, and then there's a bunch of neighborhoods north of that."
Miranda created the original show for himself and played the lead role on Great White Way, but more than a dozen years later, he wisely felt a younger man -- Anthony Ramos -- should take over as the bodega owner who dreams of a better life.
Ramos becomes a major star before our very eyes in this movie, his formidable talent is matched by the rest of the cast.
The script is updated to reflect today's concerns, but the picture never gets bogged down in the serious stuff.
It's the same balance between light and dark director John Chu found in his blockbuster "Crazy Rich Asians."
It's a warm and loving embrace of a specific culture, one that has been under-represented on the big screen for far too long.
It is the right movie at the right time to get us to go out again, because "In the Heights" is best seen on a big screen with other people.
Sure, it's just a little bit too long, but after being denied such a celebration for so long, few will complain. Also, now is not the time to quibble because watching this joyful movie after a year of home entertainment is a life-affirming experience.