Dear Evan Hansen (2021): A Lackluster Adaptation of the Ben Platt-Starring Musical

“Dear Evan Hansen” is directed by Stephen Chbosky (Wonder, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and stars Ben Platt (Pitch Perfect, The Politician), Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) Kaitlyn Dever (Unbelievable, Booksmart), Amandla Stenberg (The Darkest Minds, The Hate U Give), Nik Dodani (Murphy Brown, Escape Room), Colton Ryan (Little Voice, Homeland), Danny Pino (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mayans M.C.), and Amy Adams (Arrival, American Hustle). This film is based on the Broadway show of the same name, which also stars Ben Platt, and follows Evan Hansen as he copes with a social anxiety disorder and finds himself falling down a rabbit hole after the sudden suicide of a classmate, whose sister he crushes on.

I have never been exposed to the musical version of “Dear Evan Hansen,” in fact my earliest memory of seeing anything related to it was by first seeing a trailer for this movie in the theater. I cannot remember if it was “Free Guy” or something else, it might have been “Free Guy,” but I saw the trailer before some movie, and it gave a pleasant first impression from the music and supposed balance of lightheartedness mixed in with serious drama. Then people started talking about Ben Platt’s age, which I did not care about at first, but the Internet has this fiendish method of sucking you into the latest trend that I inevitably got a closer look at Platt from time to time and thought, “Okay…”

If you want my honest thoughts on “Dear Evan Hansen” I can tell you right now that I do not have plans to watch this movie again. Musicals are not my preferred genre, but I should also note that my mother, who is probably more likely to watch musicals than me, watched this movie, and she found the tunes lacking in charm and style. She and I agreed that there are certain segments that are oddly placed and it kind of reminded me of when you’re in school, you’re writing an essay, and because your teacher likes rules, they want you to put in a certain number of transitions. Some of the transitions feel out of left field and almost anger-inducing at times. The songs honestly don’t sound as great as I would have expected either. The movie has two periods. Dead air and uninteresting songs. Nothing more.

No, seriously! This movie has some of the worst pacing I felt all year. I do not need all my movies to go bam bam licketdy split on a popsicle stick, but this movie feels absurdly slow in the worst possible way, and it did not need to be as long as it is. The final runtime comes out to 2 hours and 17 minutes. This movie could have been better if it lost five minutes. Even better if it lost ten minutes. Who knows? Maybe it needed to lose a half hour and one or two songs. The movie elongates in certain scenes, wastes its time, not to mention my time. By the end, part of me is surprised I did not fall asleep. I guess if I’m tired I could watch this movie again, it has that going for it. I mean, if some of the dead air was to promote the social awkwardness between one or two people, then sure, I guess the movie did its job. But it just didn’t work for me. For all I know this works better on a stage than it does in a movie, but if that’s the case, it shows that not everything translates to film. When “In the Heights” is longer and I gave it a more positive look than I did with “Dear Evan Hansen,” that’s a bit of a problem. Granted, it’s only longer by several minutes, but still.

As I watched this movie, I kept looking at Ben Platt, then I looked at his face. I kept looking. …And looking. …And looking some more. Obviously, this harkens back to the age problem. When your film’s star is distracting based on his looks, that’s a red flag. I turned to my mom at one point and told her “This guy looks like Jerry Seinfeld.” And I meant THAT Seinfeld from the 1990s. Every other minute as I type this review, I can almost imagine Ben Platt in a Puffy shirt singing his ass off. Do I think Ben Platt is a bad actor? Not really. Although I should note he’s nowhere near my favorite, nor should he be. I’ve only seen him in “Pitch Perfect” just to be clear, and it’s been years since I’ve seen that movie. But at the same time, watching his performance was a tad awkward, not only because of how old he looks on screen, but at times I did not completely buy into some of his mannerisms. There are certain scenes where Platt’s character is a fine embodiment of the movie’s message, but others where watching him is kind of on the cringe side. I do not know what to say. Even in some of the better scenes I would wonder what they were thinking casting him. Yes, he was in the original show, but do we really need him here?

I have a strong feeling that if Ben Platt’s father, Marc Platt, were not producing this movie, there’s a chance that Ben Platt would probably be more involved behind the scenes and let somebody else take the lead role. Look guys, I am all for family members or people who are related getting together to make movies, but my advice is to ease with caution on your projects otherwise you’ll just end up becoming the next Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. Gosh, “Superintelligence” was a trainwreck.

In a way, I kind of relate to the main character of Evan Hansen because I never had much of a social life in high school, I think to some degree I had trouble talking to other people, including girls. I just think certain parts of Evan Hansen’s character were exaggerated to such a degree that it took me out of the movie. Granted, it is a musical, and musicals have a tradition of being exaggerated, but my suspense of disbelief can only go so high. Plus, the journey itself that Evan Hansen takes, the fact that he’s living a lie to pretend to the world he has a friend so he can feel good about himself and others around him, kind of made my brain shake. There are worse lies you could tell, but it’s hard to relate to the hero or root for him when the objective of the story is to lie about being friends with someone to share a positive message, all the while being a viral sensation on YouTube. It’s like if I went on a world tour lecturing about the dangers of caffeine and what it can do you, then I go back into my hotel and get a couple Diet Cokes from the vending machine every night. I don’t know. This movie’s an enigma. I get that likable characters cannot be perfect, not everyone can be Superman, characters have to have weaknesses, but something about this story, even with the positive message it provides, kind of turned me off by the end. Maybe I am a hypocrite because not too long ago I started watching HBO’s “Avenue 5” and one thing I liked about the main character was how he advertised himself as the captain of his ship, but he got by because he was charming. He was a flat out liar to the public eye, because behind the scenes, he didn’t know anything. I like the main character on the show for that reason and how his story is handled throughout the couple episodes I’ve seen at least. Ben Platt is an okay singer when the movie allows him to be, but his character became less relatable as the story progressed, and when you have a somewhat lackluster main character, then I do not see the point of returning to this film to watch it a second time.

In the end, “Dear Evan Hansen” is probably one of the more painful movie experiences I had this year, because unlike another musical adaptation that came out in recent years, “Cats,” I actually had some semblance of excitement for this movie. The trailer looked good. The music sounded good. But the actual movie failed to impress me. It’s boring, it has a main character I related to less and less throughout the film, and honestly the musical soundtrack was a bit lackluster for my taste. When you make a musical and the soundtrack collectively is not even halfway decent, then that’s a failure. This is not the worst movie of the year, I’d rather watch “Dear Evan Hansen” over “Tom & Jerry,” but I am going to give “Dear Evan Hansen” a 3/10.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” the movie where murder can happen and murder will happen. It’s called Murdphy’s Law! I made it myself. If you want to see this review and more upcoming content, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dear Evan Hansen?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a role that you think someone was either too young or too old to play when they portrayed the character? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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