Lin-Manuel Miranda went the semi-autobiographical route for his theater debut In the Heights, a musical set in the working class Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. Though Miranda’s professional family lived in the adjacent neighborhood, he had the good sense to notice that the better stories were with the nurses than the doctors, the storefront owner than the chain owner. After In the Heights’ success on Broadway and the greater success of Miranda’s Hamilton, the inevitable film version of In the Heights arrived during the thwarted hot vax summer, a time when the brief window of normalcy between COVID variants could be celebrated onscreen with a crowded production of singing stars and hundreds of dancing extras. Jon Chu’s adaptation didn’t receive the commercial reception it was aiming for, but it is nevertheless a joyous explosion for the musical-skeptic that overpowers the corniness baked into the genre with Latin verve and charisma.
Dexter Fletcher’s previous work as a director, subbing in at the last-minute for unreliable alleged rapist Bryan Singer on Bohemian Rhapsody, was insufficient to save that Queen biopic from arriving into theaters as a hacky mess and potentially the worst Best Picture nominee in decades, but Fletcher’s navigation of a story heavily influenced by its musician subjects was satisfactory enough to get him a job in the exact same subgenre. Like the surviving members of Queen, Elton John has long shopped a film about his early life and career, and the filmgoing market is clearly primed for songbook musicals, regardless of quality. With the parody Walk Hard far in the background as a guidebook of what not do to and Bohemian Rhapsody as a recent example of how terrible a film can be if every canard and trope is indulged, Fletcher’s Rocketman doesn’t reinvent a well-work wheel but it finds considerable stylistic flourishes to at least make the ride smoother.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.