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Dear Evan Hansen: Abominable or Amazing?

By: Josiah Cook

Dear Evan Hansen was released on September 22, 2021, following the viral success of the Eponymous Broadway show. Ben Platt, who was cast as the lead in 2015, reprised his role as Evan in the movie. I personally saw it on New Year’s Eve, and felt that while it had some very valuable and poignant moments, it was marred by far more awkward aspects that tainted its cinematic prowess.

The music in this movie was absolutely breathtaking, and the performers had amazing vocal control, even though most of the actors hadn’t frequented the theatrical stage. Additionally, the song “Disappear” was replaced with “The Anonymous Ones,” a touching ballad that reflected the anxieties of teenagers struggling with loneliness in high school and online. Overall, the music was more memorable than the actual storyline, part of the reason why it garnered such praise on Broadway. Perhaps it should have stayed that way instead of being converted to a movie.

The first problematic aspect of this movie was that the actors did not portray their characters well. Ben Platt is incredibly talented, but he is nearly 28 years old. It would have been refreshing to see someone who looked like they could be in an algebra class without trying so hard. Additionally, Connor Murphy’s character in the play resembled the stereotypical emo basket case found in any teenage movie (think Allison from the Breakfast Club) and that warranted his reputation as an outcast around the school. However, his character in the movie could be a member of the Backstreet Boys or in the “popular clique” instead of a loner struggling to fit in.

Making an entirely new film version of a musical is hardly expected to turn out well. The movie was predisposed to have some unrealistic moments, because people don’t just break into song in everyday life. One scene depicts Evan and Zoe Murphy walking around the same section of the kitchen for an entire song, which left me as a viewer bored out of my mind.

Additionally, some of the musical numbers featured the main characters just walking through the halls of high school, resembling a Disney Channel movie instead of the poignant and thought provoking piece the directors intended it to be. On Broadway, the musical performed very well because of the artistic choices the directors made with a minimalistic set that allowed the audiences to fill in the blanks and visualize the rest of Evan’s world.

Additionally, controversy surrounds the plot of the film, which centers around Evan, a teenager with social anxiety and depression who has a confrontation with the notorious Connor Murphy right before Connor takes his own life.

Overall, the movie has both good and bad aspects. However, I would have preferred to see a professionally shot musical like Hamilton on Disney+ rather than a movie that does not do a very good job sticking to its musical roots.

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