THEATRICAL REVIEW: Manipulative Evan Hansen hits sour note

This is a Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical, and yet, the film adaptation just doesn’t click together.

I understand you can’t do a complete 180 on a story – and this one is a doozy. But perhaps someone should have realized that the story of an obviously mentally-ill high school senior who leverages his classmate’s suicide to gain friends and start a romance with the deceased boy’s sister is too far.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s musical is dark – and ultimately meant to be a film about acceptance, owning your mistakes, and the importance of honesty. But something just doesn’t translate here.

What worked on-stage feels cold, cruel and left a bad taste in my mouth in the film. Director Stephen Chbosky – a writer on dramas like Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Wonder – is capable, but completely mishandles this one.

Firstly, we can debate the merits of casting mid-20s and 30-year-olds in musicals (hello Grease), but Ben Platt did not Need to be Evan Hansen. At 27, he looks absolutely ridiculous as a high-school senior and took me out of it.

The songs are beautiful, but create a tonal mess between the drama and the upbeat sensibilities of music. Platt is serviceable, but not extraordinary, and someone fresh or younger might have better served this material.

Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams, and Julianne Moore are all very good, but none of them has much in terms of depth to work with. That said, bright spots include an underused Colton Ryan and Nik Dodani, who bring some range to their roles.

In the end, Evan Hansen should never have been adapted, and it never seeks – or receives – proper redemption for its main character. He’s a despicable person who lied, and continued to lie, about something awful.

I kept waiting to feel sympathy for him, and it never came. Dear Evan Hansen, grow a spine, or develop some human decency. This musical is proof this character didn’t deserve a movie adaptation, and there’s only so much audiences will forgive.

2/5 Stars

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