Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

In 2021, movie musicals are again the rage. “In the Heights” and “Annette” have already been released. “tick, tick … BOOM” and Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” are soon to follow. Back in 2015, a coming-of-age musical entitled “Dear Evan Hansen,” premiered on Broadway, and took the world by storm by winning six Tony Awards. Based on a book penned by Steven Levenson, it follows the eponymous character, a teen suffering from social anxiety, as he navigates a local tragedy for his own gain. 

Evan (Ben Platt) wears a cast to protect the left arm he broke due to falling from a tree. He wants to talk to his crush, a guitar-playing Zoe Murphy (Kaitlyn Dever). But his anxiety gets in the way. To diffuse his uneasiness, his therapist suggests he write peppy letters to himself addressed as “Dear Evan Hansen.” When Zoe’s troubled brother Connor (Colton Ryan), however, takes one of Evan’s letters, only to commit suicide, Evan is tossed in the tumult of a fractured, grieving family. Connor’s parents believe Evan was his best friend. But the reality is far different. Evan plays along with the charade, gaining the fame, adulation, and love he’s always dreamed of. All at the expense of Connor’s memory.  

Stephen Chbosky’s cinematic adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen,” whereby a 27-year-old Ben Platt reprises his role as the teenage titular character is a total misfire. It’s an emotionally manipulative, overlong dirge composed of cloying songs, lackluster vocal performances, and even worse writing.  [full review via RogerEbert]