Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dear Evan Hansen - Movie Review

The Movie: Dear Evan Hansen

The Director: Stephen Chbosky

The Cast: Ben Platt, Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, Colton Ryan, DeMarius Copes

The Story: Film adaptation of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical about Evan Hansen, a high school senior with Social Anxiety disorder and his journey of self-discovery and acceptance following the suicide of a fellow classmate.

The Review:

Dear Evan Hansen,

I had so much hope and promise that this would be an inspirational knockout filled with catchy tunes and impressive performances and, while you delivered on some of those things, I was underwhelmed by a predictable story that dragged out for far too long. If I'm being totally honest Evan, you are not a very likable character and there is no redemption or inspiration from your story, just inevitability.

A Concerned Critic

Okay, so I'm sitting here after watching the movie and I am wondering what was the point. The whole thing is basically a story about a high school kid who gets caught up in lies, things spiral out of control, and then we get the most obvious conclusion available. I do like the fact that the story tellers tackle some heavy material like mental health, broken families, and suicide especially how these things impact high school age kids, I'm just not a fan of how these messages were delivered.

You will recognize the names of songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul from their work in La La Land and The Greatest Showman, both of which feature some very iconic songs that add a lot to their respective movies. If you have watched those movies, the melodies in this film will sound very familiar and it's pretty obvious the songs were written by the same people. I would say they are good, but not on the same level and I'm wondering if some of the songs have lost a bit of potency in their translation to the screen.

When I first looked at the cast I was very impressed with the assembled roster of talent with Ben Platt leading the way, an actor who I will always identify as Benji from the Pitch Perfect movies. For those that don't know, he played the same character for the Broadway production so he knows the material on a very intimate level and it shows. Despite my issues with the character, he puts in a solid effort although I think he could have toned down the stage theatrics a bit for the big screen.

Along with Platt, we get strong performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Amandla Stenberg although, after a friend mentioned how Amy Adams and Julianne Moore both felt out of place in this film, I had to agree with him. I think that's my main issue with the overall production is how so many things feel out of place and the end result is not nearly as satisfying as I had hoped.

The Verdict:
Dear Evan Hansen is a love letter to troubled teens that has its moments yet falls flat with a story that may have played better on stage than it does on screen. If you're a fan of the Broadway show, you will most likely enjoy this cinematic version with all of those iconic songs you know you want to sing along to.

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