Dear Evan Hansen: Is it really worth the watch?


Ben Platt as Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen, the movie adaptation of the popular Broadway show, was released in theatres on September 24, 2021. Directed by Stephen Chbosky, screenplay by Steven Levenson, and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the movie was long anticipated by many fans of the show. The movie stars Ben Platt as Evan Hansen, Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy, Colton Ryan as Connor Murphy, Amandla Stenberg as Alana Beck, Amy Adams as Cynthia Murphy, Julianne Moore as Heidi Hansen, and Nik Dodani as Jared Kalwani.

The movie tells the story of Evan, an anxious teen who lies about his relationship with a classmate who recently committed suicide. As the movie goes on, Evan gets deeper and deeper into his elaborate lie and becomes closer to the family of his classmate.

Although the musical won and was nominated for many awards, the movie falls short of many people’s expectations. The groundbreaking musical is just adequate as a movie and pales in comparison to the original show.

The musical has been incredibly successful since its opening night on Broadway in 2017, winning many Tony awards and even a Grammy. Unfortunately, it’s a show that has so much sentimentality that it doesn’t translate as well to the screen. Live theatre is full of melodrama and big emotions, whereas moviegoers get a bit more annoyed by these traits in films. But some gripes I had with this film (as a musical theatre fan) are the casting (mostly Ben Platt), the singing experience of the cast, and the changes made from the original musical, like the music and some plot points.

The casting of older actors to play teens has been common in Hollywood for many years. Some movies and TV shows have been able to get away with doing this because the actor actually looks the age of the character they are playing. But, Ben Platt (twenty seven) doesn’t look like a teenager in the slightest. The attempts by the hair and makeup team to make him look younger (long curly hair and odd-looking makeup) certainly don’t help. Normally, the age of the actors in movies doesn’t bother me, but this movie is the exception. When making a movie addressing the hardships that teens face (like mental health), it’s not very convincing when the actors in the movie are in their mid to late twenties desperately trying to look like teenagers.

Similar to many movie musicals before it, Dear Evan Hansen’s cinematic elements aren’t anything special. But one thing that sets movie musicals apart from regular movies is the singing. Unfortunately, the singing of the majority of this cast wasn’t very good. There were some very experienced singers and theatre performers, like Ben Platt and Colton Ryan, and Amandla Stenberg and Nik Dodani were two surprisingly good singers who didn’t previously have any singing credits to their names. Kaitlyn Dever and Amy Adams were both adequate singers, but when compared to their original Broadway cast counterparts, their singing is subpar. Julianne Moore is just not a singer, there’s no other way to say it. She is clearly trying her best, but considering the fact that Rachel Bay Jones won a Tony for her performance as Heidi in the original Broadway cast, Moore just wasn’t the best casting choice they could’ve made. Even though they did hire some Broadway actors for the movie, the majority of them were just put in the background for most of the movie. For instance, Broadway actors Demarius Copes (Mean Girls the Musical) and Issac Cole Powell (Once on this Island, West Side Story and American Horror Story) are two incredibly talented singers and actors who were both reduced to no name characters who occasionally had the camera turned towards them.

Finally, the movie made many changes to the original musical, cutting out more than a handful of songs. One cut song that most fans of the show were upset about was “Good For You”, a rock song that was a pivotal part of the show. Other songs that were cut included “Anybody Have A Map”, “Disappear”, and “To Break In A Glove”. The two added songs to the movie, “The Anonymous Ones” and “A Little Closer”, were both great additions to the film (the latter was arguably the better of the two), but they weren’t as important or as strong as some of the cut songs from the original show.

Overall, this movie is a hit and a miss. The source material gave the director and producers lots of potential, but the result was the lesser of many movie musicals. For the general moviegoer, I wouldn’t recommend this movie because of the “acquired taste” needed to appreciate this movie. The desperate theatre kid waiting for the occasional movie musical might appreciate this movie. But, Dear Evan Hansen is an adequate movie musical that tried to break ground, but instead, just broke down and failed.