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Film / In the Heights

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"From Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo,
we rep our people and the beat go —"

"Sueñito? It means 'little dream'."

In the Heights is a 2021 musical romantic comedy-drama film based on Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical of the same name. It was directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes (who also wrote the book for the original musical).

The film is about a tight-knit Latino community on the brink of change located in Washington Heights, New York. Anthony Ramos stars as Usnavi, a good-hearted bodega owner who dreams of returning to his native Dominican Republic despite his crush on aspiring fashion designer Vanessa (Melissa Barrera).

Leslie Grace plays Nina, considered the pride of the barrio for getting into Stanford, while Corey Hawkins plays Benny, Usnavi's best friend, Nina's love interest, and an employee of her father Kevin (Jimmy Smits). Rounding out the cast are Gregory Diaz IV as Sonny, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Daniela, and Stephanie Beatriz as Carla, with Olga Merediz reprising her Tony-nominated role as Abuela Claudia and Miranda as Piragua Guy (named "Mr. Piraguero").

The film was released in theaters and via HBO Max on June 10, 2021.

Previews: Trailer 1, "Washington Heights" Trailer, "Powerful" Trailer.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Sonny's life outside the bodega is expanded upon a bit more, showing a bit of his home life (with a father who is implied to be alcoholic) and the difficulties of dealing with being an undocumented immigrant in the country. This adds depth to the original character, who was one of the most politically-minded characters in the original.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change:
    • The reason for Nina's college woes are changed in the transition from stage to screen. In the show, she lost her scholarship after her grades slipped due to working two jobs. In the film, she drops out after facing racism and isolation.
    • In the play, Usnavi was implied to be an infant when he immigrated, and (re?)named for a boat his family saw the day they came. Here, he lived in the Dominican Republic until he was 8, and named after a boat his father saw years earlier.
  • Adaptational Badass: Benny in the musical during the blackout was drunk and didn't do much to help while spending the night with Nina. Here, despite drinking the same amount of shots, he's sober enough to realize that the dispatch needs to get people in taxis and the building likely has no power either. Benny orders Nina to stay with Usnavi and head back to Abuela's apartment, while he goes help her dad's business.  Nina protests that he doesn't have to do this, but Benny says that he can't ignore the people fighitng over taxis. Kevin is impressed when it turns out he got the same idea and walks into the powerless dispatch, seeing Benny has jerry-rigged a generator and routed incoming calls through his cellphone, getting a pregnant woman to a hospital and breaking up fights remotely. Then he joins in as well, helping Benny coordinate. Nina also silently admits she is impressed at how proactive and compassionate Benny was.
  • Adaptational Context Change:
    • In the stage version, Sonny and Graffiti Pete set off fireworks during the blackout as a way to distract and repel any of the looters who may be thinking of targeting the bodega. In the film, the looting is Adapted Out so it's changed to the duo setting off the fireworks as a way to give the neighborhood some visibility in the darkness. Subsequently, Graffiti Pete yelling "Backup!/Backup!/Backup!" is changed from him threatening the looters approaching the bodega with a Roman candle to Graffiti Pete warning a group of bystanders to back away from the fireworks he just lit so they don't get hit.
    • In the stage version, "Paciencia Y Fe" is about Claudia looking back at her lifetime of hardships and labor after she suddenly wins the lottery. In the film, it's essentially her Death Song, with her whole life flashing before her eyes before she peacefully dies in bed. Subsequently, the line "What do I do with this winning ticket? What can I do but pray?" has now been changed to "I made it through. I survived, I did it. Now do I leave or stay?"
    • The barrio residents prior to “Carnaval del Barrio” aren’t just in the doldrums because of the blackout-they’re also mourning their surrogate Abuela’s death. In the stage version, the song immediately precedes the announcement of Abuela's death.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Kevin being against Nina and Benny's interracial relationship is cut. The relationship itself is much less developed in this version, establishing through a small number of lines that the two were dating before she left for college, and he still has feelings for her. "Sunrise" is cut as well.
    • The blackout plot is streamlined. The fight at the club doesn't happen, with the blackout occurring in the heat of the moment during the dance-off. Additionally, the mass panic, looting, and shooting (with Pete and Sonny having to defend the store against looters) doesn't occur owing to the political climate at the time the movie was made.
  • Adaptation Deviation:
    • Vanessa's plot thread of having a dysfunctional parent is given to Sonny.
    • In the stage show, what finally convinces Nina to give college another shot is remembering Abuela Claudia's influence on her, with the number "Everything I Know". In the film, it's seeing Sonny dejected at his lack of prospects due to being undocumented.
    • The lottery winnings in the play are divvied up between Claudia, Usnavi, and Sonny. Here, she leaves the whole thing to Usnavi, who uses it to pay for Sonny's green card fight.
    • In the stage version, Sonny and Graffiti Pete's parting mural to Usnavi is Abuela Claudia, memorializing her impact on the barrio residents. In the film, it's of a beach in the Dominican Republic, allowing for The Reveal that the Framing Device was an illusion.
    • In the stage production the status of Usnavi's relationship with Vanessa is left up in the air. The movie shows them happily together with a daughter.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Vanessa is given a little more development here, showing her as an aspiring fashion designer and artist.
    • Usnavi's plans for returning to the Dominican Republic are more fleshed out and recurs more throughout the film than the stage show.
    • In this version, Sonny is The Illegal, and gets more focus as he contemplates his future and prospects. Usnavi winds up using the lottery prize to pay for legal assistance to get him lawful status.
    • The person running the Mr. Softee truck was only alluded to in the show, and never appeared on stage. He actually makes a physical appearance here, played by Christopher Jackson as a little Casting Gag.
    • The original play took place only on the weekend of July 3-5. Here, not counting the Framing Device, it covers more than a month from about July to August.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Camilla Rosario, Nina's mother and Kevin's wife, is not present in the film version and is said to have passed away.
    • Benny and Nina's duet, "Sunrise", is not in the film version. Neither is Kevin's solo "Inútil".
    • In the stage show, Vanessa has a always-offstage mother who's described as dysfunctional and negligent. Here, there's no mention of Vanessa's family and her desire to move away is about pursuing her dreams as a designer, not getting away from a bad home life.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Owing to being a single parent, Kevin Rosario is this. It's implied he's more than okay with Benny dating his daughter, and sells the business in the hopes of helping his daughter with her college career rather than out of any implied spite. What's more, when he learns she was racially profiled, he's horrified on her behalf while insisting she can't give up. Kevin and Benny also come to an understanding when a laid-off Benny comes to run the dispatch during the blackout, to help out those terrified in the streets.
    • The Piraguero. In some productions of the show, he holds up a wrench during “Piragua (Reprise)”, implying he sabotaged Mr. Softee’s truck. In the movie, there's no implied sabotage on his part - the truck actually did break down on its own. As a result, the Piragua Guy goes over to Mr. Softee and gives him a free cup of piragua as consolation, if not an outright friendly gesture.
    • Benny has more of a temper in the stage show and blames Nina for the loss of his job when Kevin sells his business. Here, he doesn't even get angry at Kevin for firing him and helps him at the dispatch during the blackout, as mentioned above.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Daniela and Carla are a queer couple in the film version. While they are never explicitly called a couple, the pair are quite touchy-feely with each other, especially in "Carnaval del Barrio", and Carla refers to Daniela as "mi amor". There's also a brief shot of them in bed together during the opening number.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Stanford as an institution is hit with this. In the play, it gets an overall neutral portrayal, with Nina's problems stemming from her struggling to balance her studies and working to pay the tuition. In the film, the college is depicted as an elitist establishment that only cares about minority students like Nina for diversity PR, otherwise doing nothing about the racism they face from more privileged students.
  • Adaptational Wealth: Downplayed. In the play, Usnavi is saving up to return to the Dominican Republic, and it's the winning lottery ticket that provides him the means to do so. While he isn't rich in the film, he's already saved up enough money to do so by himself, and is even shown putting down a deposit on his father's old place before the lottery comes into play.
  • All There in the Manual: The book "In the Heights: Finding Home" provides a wealth of information about both the stage show and the film.
  • Arc Words: In addition to the show's Paciencia y fe (patience and faith), the movie adds sueñito (little dream). It is the name of Usnavi's late father's business in DR before immigrating, and Usnavi repeats it several times in his narration, describing the different ways he and his friends pursue their dreams. In the epilogue, we see that the bodega has been renamed El Sueñito.
  • Artistic License – University Admissions: Kevin ultimately sells his business to cover Nina's tuition costs at Stanford, and had previously sold half his space to cover the first year's payments. Stanford in reality is free for students whose families make less than $75,000 a year and offers full tuition when their families make less than $150,000. While it's never said how much Kevin makes (and the costs of living in New York could eat into a high salary), it seems that it's not enough to be above those thresholds.
  • Babies Ever After: Unlike the stage show, we see Usnavi and Vanessa have developed a long-term relationship and have a young daughter, Iris.
  • Beta Couple: Benny and Nina. Unlike in the stage show where they have their own hurdles to confront like Usnavi and Vanessa (mainly the fact that Kevin dislikes Benny dating his daughter), here they get back together with little drama and Kevin has no issue with their relationship. In contrast, Usnavi and Vanessa have a bumpy road to getting together.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Usnavi treats Sonny like his kid brother, with a mix of Vitriolic Best Buds. In the end, he pays for an immigration lawyer so that Sonny can start applying for a Green Card, silently asking why Sonny didn't tell him about his immigration status in the first place.
  • Bilingual Bonus: There's a fair amount of untranslated Spanish in some scenes, most of which could be guessed by context.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While not as bittersweet as the theatre version, the film's ending still has its fair amount of sadness. Sonny's future is up in the air as the process of getting a Green Card is pretty much against him, but Usnavi offers to use Claudia's lottery ticket to pay for his fees. Benny and Nina have to endure a long-distance relationship, but there's more hope of them surviving as Kevin approves of their relationship. Usnavi eventually comes to the decision to stay in Washington Heights after all; renovating his bodega and having a child with Vanessa.
  • Blatant Lies: When questioned by the kids on who won the lottery after "96,000", Usnavi claims that the ticket was never turned in and that no one knows who won. He - technically Claudia - did, and offered the funds for Sonny's legal fees.
  • Book Ends: The first few lines of "In the Heights" (the title song) has Usnavi looking straight at the camera and addressing the audience with "Hey y'all, good morning," followed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (as the Piragua Guy), the original creator/composer/lyricist/Broadway Usnavi, interacting with movie Usnavi in a Passing the Torch moment. At the end of "Finale", Usnavi sings his last line, then passes his hat onto his daughter Iris, who had been the most attentive to his story; she then turns to the audience and smiles at them, as the new narrator of her own (and her community's) story, since Usnavi's is finished.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Kevin and Nina both have this when she finally reveals the reason why she dropped out of Stanford. It wasn't because of the tuition; her roommate racially profiled her and made the police search through her belongings like a common criminal. That was the tipping point since Nina had dealt with multiple incidences in her freshman year alone. She says that she couldn't handle the indignity anymore since no one saw her as a person. Benny backs her up on this, trying to explain to his boss that Nina's emotional wellbeing is more important than her education. Kevin is naturally horrified when he hears what happened and can't believe someone would treat his daughter that way. He argues, however, that just because there are a bunch of racist idiots that you don't give up on your dreams and ambitions. Nina is capable of great things, and completing her college degree will help with that. In the end, Nina admits that Kevin is right; these injustices aren't fair, but she can fight them better if she goes back to Stanford and becomes a voice for people like Sunny in her community.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Usnavi talks to the audience during the opening number (but unlike the stage show, this is the only time he does it). The last shot of the film shows his daughter Iris has inherited the same ability.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "96,000", a flashy poolside number that includes lots of crowd choreography and overhead shots of the dancers circling in the pool.
  • The Cameo:
    • Lin-Manuel Miranda's parents Luis and Luz appear as Barrio residents.
    • Acclaimed Broadway veteran Patrick Page (whom you may recognize from Hadestown) appears as Pike the laundryman.
    • Marc Anthony has a brief scene as Sonny's father.
    • Valentina plays the salon client who complains about having to travel to the Bronx for Daniela's services.
    • Journalist Maria Hinojosa of public radio's Latino USA is the woman giving the speech at the DACA rally.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • The film introduces a new character working in Daniela's salon, Cuca.
    • Pike Phillips, the laundry owner played by Patrick Page, is original to the film.
    • Sonny's father, who isn't mentioned at all in the stage musical, appears in one scene, played by Marc Anthony.
    • Then there's the quartet of kids Usnavi is talking to in the Framing Device, the most notable of which is Iris played by Olivia Perez, later revealed to be Vanessa and Usnavi's child.
  • Casting Gag: Christopher Jackson appears as the Mr. Softee man, who rivals Lin-Manuel Miranda's character, Piraguero. They both originated the roles of Benny and Usnavi in the stage show, who are best friends.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Hamilton exists in the film's universe. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and starred in the show, plays the Piragua Guy. Christopher Jackson, who originated the role of George Washington, has a cameo. And to make it worse, Anthony Ramos, who did double duty as John Laurens AND Philip Hamilton, is the star of the movie.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: It's revealed that Sonny is The Illegal and hasn't told anyone, not even his cousin Usnavi. He's worried about his future, that he may not even be able to go to college, which he tearfully confesses to Nina. When Usnavi decides to stay in Washington Heights, he says he's paying for Sonny's Green Card fees and asks why Sonny didn't say he needed help earlier.
  • Creator Cameo: Writer Quiara Alegría Hudes is in the crowd of the finale.
  • Crowd Song: Much like the stage show, many of the musical numbers involve virtually the entire barrio population, particularly "In the Heights" and "96,000".
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation:
    • The line, "I’ve got more hoes than a phone book in Tokyo" in "96,000" is replaced with a Star Wars Shout-Out instead, possibly due to concerns of racism.
    • Another line in "96,000" is also adjusted. "Donald Trump and I on the links, and he's my caddy" is adjusted to be about Tiger Woods, likely to avoid a mention of the former's presidency.
  • Darker and Edgier: Though not to excess, the film delves into more serious topics than the play, probably as a reflection of the changed political climate since the mid-2000s. We also see Abuela Claudia’s death on-screen.
  • Death by Adaptation: Nina's mother Camilla is mentioned to have passed away prior to the start of the film. In the show, she has a minor role mediating between her husband and daughter.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Abuela Claudia dies of heat stress as she does in the musical, but during the night the blackout starts instead of noon the next day. As a result, instead of Claudia cashing in her winning ticket and giving Usnavi his cut, he doesn't find out she won until he's about to leave and finds it hidden in a small seashell box on her windowsill.
  • Dingy Trainside Apartment: Vanessa's cramped trainside apartment is shown in the film, and the train's screeching is mentioned in the lyrics a few times. She notes in her "I Want" Song that the train is one of her favorite features, but only as a constant reminder of her dreams to leave the barrio behind.
  • Easter Egg:
    • The license number on Rosario's Car Service reads "LM&QHOB2008", which stands for "Lin-Manuel Miranda & Quiara Hudes on Broadway 2008."
    • The apartment Vanessa applies to is named Nadal, after Lin's wife.
    • Other businesses in the barrio include Hudes Hardware (named after writer Quiara Hudes) and Lacamoire Motors (named after music producer Alex Lacamoire).
    • The hold music Kevin listens to while calling Stanford is a muzak remix of "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton, and foreshadows Nina deciding to go back to Stanford.
  • Everyone Can See It: Everybody knows Vanessa and Usnavi are head-over-heals for each other. Except Carla, but even she admits it's pretty obvious once it's pointed out directly.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Daniela and Carla give a Death Glare at their customers gossiping that Nina must have gotten pregnant or flunked out of college. Then they look worried for Nina after she walked out during a mid-anxiety attack.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: A completely serious instance. When Sonny (who immigrated to America as a baby) is despondent over not being able to go to college, Nina is confused, saying that those legal issues only affect undocumented people... and then it hits her.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Nina arrives back in Washington Heights with slicked-straight hair, a hairstyle choice that signifies how defeated and alone she felt at Stanford. After a trip to Daniela's salon, her natural curls return, in keeping with her love for the community and culture present there. What's more is that she has highlights when she returns home, and they're still there with the curls up until she and Kevin come to an agreement. Then, her hair has reverted to its natural dark colour.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Zig-zagged with Vanessa's introduction. The first shot of her is of her feet, the second shot of her is of her face, and then the camera does a full-body pan.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Subverted. Because Usnavi is apparently telling his story to a group of children on a Dominican beach, we spend the entire movie figuring that he left Washington Heights and went to the DR. It turns out the Dominican beach wasn't real, and he's actually been telling the tale from his repainted bodega.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: Its Vietnamese title is "In the Heights: Giấc mơ New York" (A New York Dream).
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Doubling as a Brick Joke: There's a seemingly random shot of an unnaturally bright green crab on the beach bar. It's actually the badly-painted bright green crab Sonny contributed to the beach mural for Usnavi's redecorated bodega. It's one of the earliest hints that the beach isn't real.
    • When Usnavi brings up the idea of returning to the Dominican Republic to Sonny, Sonny is hesitant about the idea. Initially, the audience thinks it's because he was a baby when the family came to the United States and he has no memories of the DR. Later it becomes clear that, because of his undocumented status, he's afraid that if he leaves the United States, there's a chance he might not be able to come back.
    • When one of the kids mocks Usnavi's name, Iris defends it. Makes sense considering she's his daughter.
    • Additionally, Iris is the only child able to finish Usnavi's list of famous Latinas. As his daughter, she would have heard it from him first and probably more often.
    • When the kids don't know who Chita Rivera is, Usnavi incredulously asks what they've been learning for Hispanic Heritage Month. The Dominican Republic doesn't have such a thing, but America does. Also, note that they're speaking in English. The viewer might assume that it's a Translation Convention, but they really are speaking English—because they're in America.
    • When Usnavi talks to Sonny's dad, he asks if Usnavi knows why he always pays Sonny in cash. We find out later that Sonny is The Illegal, which means many banks will not allow him to open a bank account.
    • Sonny is the person who breaks the news of the winning $96,000 lottery ticket to Usnavi. He immediately demands a cut of Usnavi's cut. Usnavi retorts that his cut is zero because the store isn't getting any of the money. At the end of the movie, it's revealed that Claudia won the money and left it to Usnavi, who put the money towards Sonny's green card legal fees and the rest in a trust for the boy.
    • During "96,000," Usnavi says "I'll spend a few on you/Cause the only room with a view's a room with you in it," while drawing a finger frame around Vanessa in the background. Then Sonny pops into the frame, foreshadowing how Usnavi will later spend the money on Sonny.
  • Framing Device: In this version, Usnavi tells the story of the film to four children on a beach. In the climax, it's revealed that the beach is in fact a painted mural in the bodega and the curious girl among them is Usnavi and Vanessa's daughter, Iris.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Sonny slacking off during the opening number through the various cuts of Usnavi serving the customers, including snacking on one of the products and scratching his backside (in two separate shots!).
    • Benny and Sonny attempting to nonchalantly walk behind Usnavi while hissing “Usnavi, ask her out!” “No way!” in full view and hearing range of Vanessa.
    • Carla glaring daggers at the guy dancing with Daniela during the Carnaval, then breaking them up.
    • Pete and Sonny's bickering about the neon green crab on the mural as Usnavi processes the redecoration.
  • Go Out with a Smile: After spending her final moments watching Usnavi and Sonny from her bed, Abuela Claudia dies with a warm smile on her face.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Having ambition and a "little dream" is good, but don't become so single-minded on your goal that you forget to notice what's in front of you- maybe you're chasing something you don't really want. Usnavi keeps saying that he wants to rebuild his parents' bar in the Dominican Republic, but Sonny rightfully points out he was only eight years old when he left and his memories have Nostalgia Filter. Indeed, Usnavi realizes that he really wanted was the community his parents had, and it's one right there in Washington Heights. Vanessa focuses on her moving out of the barrio to build her fashion career, but also admits that it's made her Oblivious to Love with Usnavi. Nina keeps saying that if she goes to Stanford, her dad will lose the business that he spent years building.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Benny and Sonny make fun of Usnavi for having zero skills and getting a case of tongue-tied Cannot Spit It Out around Vanessa. Sonny gets tongue-tied briefly after the girl at the pool compliments his political ideas. Benny can’t bring himself to ask Nina to stay with him, and quietly says what he wants to only after she has left the dispatch. It’s immediately lampshaded by the dispatch office worker who points out that Benny is “thirsty as hell.”
  • Kick the Dog: Most of the salon ladies and guests immediately speculate that Nina flunked out or got pregnant after she announced that she dropped out of Stanford, being unable to take the Oblivious Guilt Slinging any further. It's a jarring Mood Whiplash to see people who were nothing but nice to Nina assume the worst about her, and cruelly at that. Daniela and Carla are the exceptions, issuing a unified Death Glare at the Gossipy Hens.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After “Blackout”, the last song of Act I in the play, plus two more songs that had their orders shuffled, Usnavi asks the kids if they want to take a break (read: intermission.) Iris tells him to keep going.
  • Like Goes with Like: Benny and Nina are the two black leads and are made the Beta Couple.
  • Logo Joke: The Warner Bros. logo fades into graffiti.
  • Magic Realism: Musical World Hypothesis aside, unreal aspects are woven into the storytelling. Usnavi (as in the show) talks directly to the audience and at one point spins a manhole cover with his foot and it sounds like he's scratching a record, hand gestures create visible doodles, and Benny and Nina dance up an apartment wall.
  • Moment of Silence: The movie goes completely quiet to emphasize Abuela Claudia's death, up until Usnavi resumes speaking.
  • Movie Bonus Song: The film itself contains no new songs but "Home All Summer", sung by Ramos, Grace, and Marc Anthony plays over the first half of the end credits.
  • Musical Nod: Some of the songs that weren't ported over from the stage show appear in the score instead.
    • "Sunrise" plays as an instrumental over the discussion about Usnavi's parents' old, wrecked bar, and during the dance break in "When The Sun Goes Down".
    • "Atención" plays over the discussion of Sonny's future and fight for his green card.
  • No Sympathy: Zigzagged; when Nina reveals the real reason that she dropped out — her roommate accused her of stealing, Kevin is horrified that someone would treat his daughter that way, while insisting she did nothing wrong, and she can't let that stop her from finishing her career. Benny intervenes because he understands Nina didn't want her dad to sell the business and get him laid off; he says Nina's concern is that at Stanford, no one was listening to her or letting her grow. Instead, they saw her as either a way to cross off their diversity checklist or a stereotype. Eventually, Nina eventually realizes her dad has a point that she can't let others define her, and decides to go back for sophomore year.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Usnavi wants to return to the Dominican Republic and rebuild his parents' old bar because he considers his time there the best days of his life. Sonny wisely points out that Usnavi was eight years old when the family permanently moved to America and that his young age during the time means his memories are idealized.
  • The Oner: Usnavi's and Vanessa's exchanges in "Blackout" and "Champagne" play out uninterrupted, complete with the actors singing on set.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Usnavi spends the rest of the first night of blackout tending to Claudia, who is dehydrated. She reassures him that she is fine and shows him the stars are bright. He wishes her goodnight. When he checks on her later, she's no longer breathing. Usnavi when retelling this is visibly guilty that he didn't realize anything was wrong before.
  • Please Wake Up: Usnavi senses something is wrong and goes to check on a sleeping Claudia. He calls her name softly, and then loudly. Usnavi then goes Oh, Crap! and shouts at Daniela to dial 911.
  • Production Throwback:
    • A carved drawing of a subway on the Piragua Guy's cart is a recreation of the original logo Lin sketched for the stage show back in college.
    • A smooth jazz cover of "You'll Be Back" from Lin-Manuel Mirandanote 's previous work Hamilton is used as the hold music when Kevin phones Stanford University.
  • Remake Cameo:
    • Lin-Manuel Miranda, the original Broadway Usnavi, returns as the Piragua Guy.
    • Christopher Jackson, the original Benny and a frequent collaborator with Miranda, appears in the movie as Piragua Guy's rival, the Mister Softee truck driver.
    • Seth Stewart, original Broadway Graffiti Pete, is the bartender serving shots to Usnavi and Benny.
    • Mandy Gonzales (Nina in the original Broadway cast) is heard performing a song titled "Always," during the scene at the dry cleaner's.
    • Javier Muñoz, Broadway Usnavi alternate, is seen briefly enjoying the water in “Finale”.
    • Luis Salgado (Broadway Jose & Latin Assistant Choreographer) is the chimichurri seller in "In the Heights".
    • The vocal ensemble has members of the Broadway production returning, in addition to the above: Andréa Burns (original Daniela), Joshua Henry (ensemble), Krysta Rodriguez (ensemble, Vanessa), Eliseo Román (original Piraguero), Jonathan Rua (swing, later replacement for Sonny and Graffiti Pete).
  • The Reveal: The film's Framing Device, in which Usnavi tells his story to a group of kids, takes place on a beach in the Dominican Republic. During the story itself, we learn of Usnavi's aspirations to return to the D.R., giving us context as to why he's there in the present. Then the finale reveals that they weren't on a real beach this whole time; rather, they were in Usnavi's newly-renovated bodega, which has murals of Dominican beaches painted along its walls.
  • Setting Update: The original show is set in the mid-2000s. The film shows characters using modern smartphones, has references to John Wick and Hamilton and features a subplot involving DACA, placing it firmly in the latter half of The New '10s.
  • Slut-Shaming: Both Usnavi and Vanessa engage in this when confronted with an Operation: Jealousy. Usnavi angrily tells Vanessa that she was "shaking [her] ass for like half of the Heights" at the club, and Vanessa calls Yolanda a skank when Daniela tries to provoke her by saying that Usnavi allegedly had sex with Yolanda.
  • Stairway to Heaven: Abuela Claudia climbs up an imaginary subway staircase at the end of her solo, signifying her death.
  • The Stinger: "Piragua (Reprise)", which came near the end of Act II in the musical, serves as the post-credit scene. Mister Softee's truck breaks down, which sends his customers running to Mr. Piraguero. The two make peace.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The DREAMers rally Nina and Sonny attend discusses one when it comes to undocumented immigrants and college. The rally leader notes that while it's true many colleges in the United States are willing to overlook a student's immigration status and allow them to enroll, most undocumented immigrants come from poor households and cannot afford the price of college tuition without federal loans or work-study permits, which do require legal status. Thus, the colleges' policies are mostly ineffective at helping the group obtain higher education.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Sonny says that if he won the lottery, he would use it to improve the neighborhood. He doesn't win, but Abuela Claudia does and leaves the ticket to Usnavi. Usnavi takes Sonny to a lawyer friend and says he wants to use the money to help Sonny get a green card, with the rest being put in a trust fund for his cousin. Sonny is awed and touched.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The Framing Device with Usnavi and the four children is presumably this due to the Setting Update.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Call 911!" Usnavi tries rousing Abuela Claudia, and realizing she's not breathing or waking. He screams at Daniela to dial for an ambulance, fearing the worst has happened. It has.
    • "There goes my flight." - Usnavi, right before announcing that he's staying in Washington Heights, which leads to The Reveal that the Dominican beach that we've seen him on during the Framing Device isn't real.
    • And a completely new exchange:
      Sonny: I knew I couldn’t get a license, but no college?
      Nina: She was talking about undocumented kids.
      Sonny: (stares at her before looking at the ground)
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the end, with The Reveal that Usnavi stayed in New York rather than returning to the Dominican Republic, it's left unclear what happened to the property he bought there.
  • What Would X Do?: Before "Carnaval del Barrio" Carla tells an upset Daniela to calm down by asking her "What would Jesus do?".
  • Who Is Driving?: A variation. Sonny comes out of the bodega as Nina and Usnavi are talking to welcome her back from college. After she leaves, Usnavi asks him if he's outside, who's watching the bodega. Cue Grafitti Pete running out of the store with some goods he swiped.
  • Wimp Fight: Piragua Guy vs Mr. Softee. The former tries to attack Mr. Softee by...whacking his window with a towel. Mr. Softee retaliates by tossing sprinkles and napkins at him because he considers any attack on his truck Serious Business. The passersby are naturally astonished by this display.
  • Villainous Gentrification: Downplayed. Gentrification of the Heights is ongoing: Daniela was priced out of her lease and is being forced to move her salon to the Bronx while Abuela Claudia tries to have some pieces washed at a new laundromat but can't afford the prices. While this is presented as negatively affecting the neighborhood residents, it is not the central conflict, with the focus instead being on upholding community and culture.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Kevin tries to impress this into Nina after learning the real reason that she dropped out. He says that she's better than anyone who tries to bring her down. Nina retorts that she couldn't deal with the indigities anymore. Later, however, she agrees with her dad and agrees to return to Stanford.

Where it's a hundred in the shade
But with patience and faith we remain unafraid
I'm home
You hear that music in the air?
Take the train to the top of the world, I'm there
I'm home!


Video Example(s):


Que bochinche, Nina & Benny!

The neighbors tease Nina and Benny about their tryst with the K-I-S-S-I-N-G riff in "Carnaval del Barrio".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / KissingInATree

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