TUCSON, Ariz. — With its Tony-studded Broadway pedigree, “Dear Evan Hansen” seemed like instant Oscar material.
It’s instead a two-hour long public service announcement about why stage musicals shouldn’t be adapted for film.
Ben Platt returns to Broadway, and it is his incredible singing voice and sense of empathy that will carry the film.
Although Platt’s performance was admirable, it isn’t convincing enough to make him believable as a high-school senior.
He exaggerates the slouchy and sullenness that makes him look vulnerable as a teenager, and his performance as a whole is distracting.
This awkwardness is reflected in the overall tone of this film.
Stephen Chbosky, the director who was able to translate the emotional rhythms and school life in “Wonder”, wastes any momentum when he abruptly switches into songs.
These numbers, which are often slow and drawn-out and connect with audiences in live performances, seem stiff and disjointed to a point where they are more likely draw laughters than tears.
Platt plays the role of the title character. He is a social outcast and feigns a close friendship with Connor Ryan (Colton Ryan), a classmate that killed himself.
Evan falls deeper into a trap of his own creation, adding to the already overwhelming anxiety.
The fraud ruins Evan’s budding relationship with Zoe, Evan’s longtime secret crush and sister (Kaitlyn Colorado).
The supporting cast includes Julianne Moore, Connor’s single, harried mother, and Amy Adams, Connor’s mom. They are both excellent except when they are asked to stop reading and sing.
The problem with this adaptation can be traced back to the original script.
It would have been more beneficial for the project to abandon all musical trappings and trust its writing to convey the torrent of adolescent anger from which it draws.
The film would have been greatly enhanced if it had been edited more carefully after the shooting was completed. A few songs could have been deleted to improve the film’s flow.
It is particularly disappointing that “Dear Evan Hansen”, which focuses on alienation and community in today’s social media-infatuated age, fails to connect. This makes it a difficult film that deserves more study and discussion.
The film’s execution is poor, so its points are hollow. “Dear Evan Hansen”, feels like a high school film production from a C student.
RATING: 1.5 stars from 4.
Viewed at Harkins Arizona Pavilions on Thursday.