Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ amounts to a frustratingly icky movie experience

Kaitlyn Dever and Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen / Universal Pictures

There is definitely talent at play in the big-screen adaption of the broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Star Ben Platt is a wonderfully and emotive singer as well as a solid actor. Though he’s a decade too old for the part, he’s almost convincing as the awkward teen at the heart of this musical monstrosity.

Platt originated the role of Evan on Broadway and won a Tony, Emmy and Grammy for his efforts. The songs and music by the duo of “La La Land’s” Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are effective and introspective, and the film’s cinematography by Brandon Trost is gorgeous. His lens clearly and beautifully captures the movie’s considerable star power (Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, and Danny Pino).

The movie itself, though, is a mishmash by director Stephen Chbosky from the story by Steven Levinson, Pasek, and Paul is about as unintentionally off-putting as it can get. The core of the film is about a lie that gets out of hand, and like any lie when uncovered, it becomes not only misleading but destructive.

At first, I thought the movie was a black comedy, and I found the film’s setup ironically funny on those terms, but the further I got into the movie I began to realize that I had misinterpreted what the creators were going for with the lead character’s delusional behavior. At that point, the movie became more than a bit icky, and by the end it was sorta infuriating.

The crux of the film is that a letter of self-affirmation that Hansen had written to himself as part of an on-going psychiatric procedure is found on a school printer by another mentally ill but more combative student at his school named Connor Murphy.

The letter that Evan wrote to himself mention’s Connor’s sister Zoe (Dever), whom Evan has has a longstanding crush on. The mention of Zoe sets up a confrontation in the school hallway between Evan and Connor. Connor knocks Evan to the floor and keeps the letter. Later that day, Connor commits suicide off camera. His parents, the Murphys — Adams and Pino — misconstrue the letter as Connor’s suicide note.

When invited to dinner to discuss the note, the socially awkward Evan is caught up in the moment and makes up lies about he and Connor being best friends. Hansen goes as far as having another “family friend” Jared (Nik Dodani) help him write fake e-mails from Connor to buoy his story of the false relationship between him Connor.

So, basically, Evan uses the suicide of Connor to get closer to his crush Zoe, and of course they begin dating. The well-off Murphys basically semi-adopt Evan as a surrogate son, offering to pay his college tuition with money they had set aside for Connor’s education.

If the story were told in a bit darker light, the plot might make for a decent thriller.

Tone is the trouble I have with the movie overall. It’s all over the place. Is it a comedy, a tragedy, a drama? I don’t know, and by the end I was so frustrated that I didn’t really care. The script’s indecision took me out of the movie and basically ruined the experience.

The movie, though, is well enough crafted with strong performances throughout that some will find it heart wrenching and emotionally affecting. It will have its fans.

However, the only way I’d sit through it again would be to purposefully make fun of it with a group of acerbic friends.

New in Local Theaters

Dear Evan Hansen (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hrs. 17 mins. / AMC Fiesta, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Skylight

Courageous Legacy (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hrs. 9 mins. / Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 6 mins. / Malco Razorback

Classic Corner – The Transformers: The Movie (Animated)

The Transformers: The Movie / Marvel Productions

Before the Transformers toys spawned a fairly mediocre billion-dollar, live-action movie franchise, they were the inspiration for a rad cartoon series and a better-than-average 1986 animated movie.

Thanks to Fathom Events, that film is back on the big screen for two showings at the Malco Razorback Cinema to celebrate the movie’s 35th anniversary at noon Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday.

In addition to the feature, audiences of this special event will be treated to brand-new exclusive content about the making of the classic cartoon that still remains a favorite of many fans of the characters and classic toy line.?

The plot of the film pits the heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), against the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron (Frank Welker) in their millennial-long war for cosmic hegemony. As the battle between the rival robot races continues to rage on Earth, an even greater threat looms.

Unicron (Orson Welles), a gigantic converting planet that consumes everything in its path, is heading for Cybertron to devour the Transformers home-world. Its threat to wipe the Autobots and Decepticons from existence is very real, or at least as real as a ‘toon can get. The only hope is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership.

With new enemies hunting them down and dangers lurking in every corner of the galaxy, the Autobots take on a perilous mission to save their planet that will alter their destiny forever.

The movie features an impressive cast of voice actors, including Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), Eric Idle (the Monty Python films) and, Robert Stack (The Untouchables), who help bring this dynamic and entertaining Autobot adventure to life.

The animation is somewhat crude for the big screen. Maybe a step or two above the the “Transformers” animated series, but for those who love these characters, the story is gripping albeit simplistic.

Fans of Jack Kirby’s comics will no doubt notice his influence on the characters and story-telling. The movie will remind comics fans of Kirby’s Galactus stories from his run with Stan Lee on “Fantastic Four” and “The Mighty Thor” as well as his solo creations “The Eternals” and “The New Gods” for DC Comics.