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Dear Evan Hansen (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, DeMarius Copes, Liz Kate, Isaac Cole Powell, Zoey Luna, Avery Bederman, Gerald Caesar, Tommy Kane, Marvin Leon, Hadiya Eshé, Julia Chen Myers, Mariana Alvarez, Swift Rice and Aimee Garcia.

Screenplay by Steven Levenson.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 137 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The film version of Dear Evan Hansen has had an odd ride. The musical it was based on was a critical and popular success when it opened on Broadway in 2016, eventually winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Score. Therefore, there were high hopes for the movie version when it was released in the middle of a historic slate of filmed versions of Broadway musicals, including In the Heights, Tick Tick Boom… and West Side Story.

It seemed like it would be a natural fan favorite, with the Tony-winning actor in the lead role and a screenplay by the original playwright. It also had supporting parts played by Oscar-winning actresses Julianne Moore and Amy Adams. Therefore, it was kind of a shock when Dear Evan Hansen was released to movie theaters earlier this year the amount of negative pushback it received, from audience apathy to actively hostile reviews.

So how did Dear Evan Hansen go from hero to zero so quickly?

I mean, I get that film musicals and theatrical ones are very different animals. I also get the common complaint that the Tony winning star Ben Platt at 27 was probably too old to be playing a high school student. He was a little too old when he played the part on Broadway, too, but at least a bit closer. Maybe it’s just as simple as the fact that times change and so do audience tastes, even in a relatively short period like five years. But still, how is it possible that the story became that much worse in translation to film?

Now that Dear Evan Hansen has been released on video, maybe it’s time to catch up with it and see what all the fuss – positive and negative – has been about.

I have not seen the theatrical version of Dear Evan Hansen; however, I do know several people who saw it and loved it, and I respect their opinions. So, coming into the movie fresh, I have to say that it is not quite as bad as some of the reviews were suggesting. That said, I do have to admit that the plot concept is a little awkward and creepy – a neurotic, shy loser gains friends, love and confidence when a fellow student commits suicide, and everyone mistakenly believes that he was a friend of the dead boy. The pacing was also a bit off for a musical – there is just one song in the first 25 minutes, after which the music comes pretty regularly. And the music itself was pretty good but mostly unmemorable on first listen.

Still, I mostly enjoyed Dear Evan Hansen. I could see how it would work better on stage than on screen, but the germ of what had made it so popular on Broadway does survive in the film version.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: December 5, 2021.


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