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Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ should have stayed on stage

After winning a Tony Award in 2017 for “Dear Evan Hansen,” Ben Platt could have retired his performance as the titular teenager on top. Instead, he slouches his way through an overly long big-screen adaptation of the musical that shot him to stardom.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Platt talked about the importance of preserving his performance. 

“The legacy of the stage performance has really changed my life, and to jeopardize that legacy in any way is a very scary thing,” Platt said. “But I think in the back of my mind, I always felt [that] I’m going to want to show this to my children one day, and I’m going to want this immortalized.”

Unfortunately for Platt and his unborn children, the performance he immortalized is a part of a bad movie. Everything he feared about jeopardizing his legacy came true. Despite adapting a well-made, emotionally impactful musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” falls flat on the big screen.

Simply put, the film is too long and doesn’t accomplish much of anything in its two-hour and 17-minute runtime. While some films make the most of their longer runtimes by engaging the audience at every turn, “Dear Evan Hansen” is a chore to get through.

It was sad watching the songs I loved in high school be performed as hollow, empty shadows of themselves. The film overall lacked the emotional quality and depth to justify its existence. Normally, when filmmakers decide to remake an existing property, they have some vision to add a new element to the lore. Director Stephen Chbosky doesn’t add anything new; he just takes away.

Cutting the musical’s opening number “Anybody Have A Map?” removes the opportunity for the supporting characters to exist outside of Evan’s perpetually hunched perspective. By taking out “Good for You,” the clearest distillation of the consequences of Evan’s actions in the film disappears along with it.

When the film decides to have choreography in its musical numbers that isn’t pacing around a bedroom, it uses one of two options. The first is perfectly centered choreography directly borrowed from Old Navy ads. The second is walking down a hallway looking directly into the camera reminiscent of insurance commercials.

Along with perfectly centered shots of main characters walking down hallways, there is nothing that the “Dear Evan Hansen” film loves more than zooming in on characters working on laptops. How is the audience supposed to believe Evan and his single mother are struggling financially when his pristine Dell laptop has such a prominent presence in the film?

To end on a few positive things about this movie, Julianne Moore and Amy Adams both give solid performances as Heidi Hansen and Cynthia Murphy. Adams in particular nails the insistent belief of a grieving mother that her son had been a good person while he was alive.

The songs “Sincerely, Me,” “Requiem” and “So Big/So Small” were also well done and captured the elusive correct emotional tone that was lacking in the rest of the film.

I would rate the “Dear Evan Hansen” film a 3/10. It tarnishes the legacy of a great musical by being an adaptation it didn’t need.

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