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Review Roundup: DEAR EVAN HANSEN Hits the Big Screen - What Are the Critics Saying?


The film officially hits theaters on September 24!

Review Roundup: DEAR EVAN HANSEN Hits the Big Screen - What Are the Critics Saying?

The film adaptation of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen hits theaters on September 24th, but some lucky members of the press were able to view it early as it has its premiere at TIFF this week.

The breathtaking, generation-defining Broadway phenomenon becomes a soaring cinematic event as Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his role as an anxious, isolated high schooler aching for understanding and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty of the social-media age.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Wonder), the film is written for the screen by the show's Tony winner Steven Levenson with music and lyrics by the show's Oscar®, Grammy and Tony-winning songwriting team of Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman).

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter: The absence of a more cohesive unifying tone is noticeable in director Chbosky's nonmusical renderings, which also occasionally struggle to find an agreeable balance between the theatrical and the melodramatic. Despite the pesky distractions, Platt and company still manage to deliver the right message at precisely the right time.

Peter Debruge, Variety: It's one of two original numbers added for the movie, though the other - "A Little Closer," by Pasek and Paul - isn't especially good. Chbosky deploys it well, incorporating the song (which Ryan sings as Colton) into an extended atonement sequence, which is clearly the movie's way of having Evan redeem himself. And it works. Even if the song's quite forgettable, Evan emerges a more mature character. The team behind the film haven't necessarily fixed all that was wrong with the show, but they've been listening, at least, and that's a start.

Steve Pond, The Wrap: If you have a heart and any kind of tolerance for musicals, at some point you will surrender to "Dear Evan Hansen," to Ben Platt and to a sterling cast of actors who were not in the original Broadway musical. It's messy at times and melodramatic at others, and its treatment of mental health issues is not the most nuanced, but those feel like quibbles given the joy you can find in its best moments.

Valerie Complex, Deadline: Still, it is an irreparably problematic piece of work that manipulates the audience by forcing them to feel sympathy for a pathological liar whose own mental illness is exploited. To top it all off, Evan is forgiven by everyone around him and sees no real consequences for his actions just because they can understand where he's coming from?! This story is complete madness from beginning to end, but at least the actors can sing.

Tina Hassannia, IndieWire: The film should be a hit: It touches on timely subject matter, the songs are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who have won awards for songs in "La La Land" and "The Greatest Showman"), and the stage musical won six Tony Awards. Unfortunately, Stephen Chbosky's poor directorial choices cancel out the rousing success "Dear Evan Hansen" was on stage, with a cascade of glaring distractions that continuously point out the artificiality of the genre.

Alex Wood, WhatsOnStage: So it all adds up to a mystifying finish. Spectators will likely land on one of three outcomes: it's either passably interesting (though overly long), rousingly novel or terrifyingly awful - all depending on whether or not you can empathise with Evan's so-called plight. That's something, I suppose.

Ian Freer, Empire: Still, Chbosky, writer-director of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, has a feel for modern teen dynamics and gets good performances from his younger cast. Kaitlyn Dever commits as Connor's sister Zoe, who shared a broken relationship with her brother, and Amandla Stenberg gives depths to activist Alana, who leads a project to commemorate Connor's life. Which leaves Platt, who initiated the role on Broadway, and gives a strangely stage-y performance; he also simply looks too old to be a convincing teenager (he's 27). He's strong in song, not so much elsewhere - much like the movie as a whole.

Glenn Sumi, Now Toronto: Screenwriter Levenson has wisely cut some things out - gone is a song about a baseball glove, for instance - and added others. Lots of theatre fans had problems with the ending, and what Levenson has changed makes a big difference in how we view Evan. And he's given extra dimension to characters like Alana (Amandla Stenberg), a seemingly secure student-president type, and Cynthia (Amy Adams), who becomes like a substitute mother to Evan.

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