The increasingly ubiquitous Lin Manuel Miranda strikes it home yet again, with the third of his four dynamite movie musicals to find release in 2021. That the first proved a confounding flop at the box office and the second saw its theatrical release shelved is neither here nor there. This EGOT chasing virtuoso is on a role. Unlike In the Heights and Vivo before it – and, indeed, Encanto to come – tick, tick…BOOM! is unique in the quartet for casting Miranda not as lyricist but director. Working from the late, great Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical text and songbook of 1990, Miranda’s debut in the hot seat proves a sensation. Not one that is entirely unmitigated but a mighty attempt at perfection nonetheless.
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Insincerity spoils Dear Evan Hansen. The disconnect happens early and no infectious melody can quite reset the system. There is something to be said of miscasting Ben Platt – too broad, too muscular to convince as a timid teen – in the fault of this. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Let’s not forget the likes of James Dean and John Travolta, beloved before him. More problematically, Stephen Chbosky’s is a film that fumbles challenging issues and raises dilemmas without ever taking sides or laying blame. Instead, a blunt script by Steven Levenson responds ‘it’s complicated’. At well over two hours, the result is a plethora of highs and lows and drags on for forever.
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The spirit of transient youth ripples through Pixar’s latest and it’s infectious. From Enrico Casarosa – whose La Luna surely only narrowly missed out on the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2011 – Luca is lovely. Certainly, in its opening act, the film could almost pass for un cortometraggio itself. A self-professed homage to Federico Fellini, Luca pays tribute to those halcyon days of never ending Summer. In a golden haze and fifties aesthetic, Casarosa finds adventure. Most winning is the film’s homespun quality. It’s in the memory born identity of the Italian’s intrinsically personal conceit but also very literally so in the fact that much of the production was completed in the animators’ own homes. You’d never guess.
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