[Spoiler Alerts]

Yesterday I did something extraordinary.

I went to see a movie in a movie theater. I saw “In the Heights” at the Regal Cinemas at thirteenth street and Broadway in Manhattan. The theater was clean and almost gleamingly polished. I was one of three patrons at the five o’clock show.

When I was a little boy, we lived in Washington Heights until we moved away. Our neighborhood was full of refugees from Germany and both German and English was spoken at home and in the stores we visited. Many of my friends in school came from backgrounds similar to ours; many did not.

I knew that the Washington Heights depicted in the movie would not be anything like the place I remembered and that it is now home to Hispanic Americans. But I wanted to see the old neighborhood and the sights I remembered there and to enjoy John M. Chu’s film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical stage play.

At first I found the film’s scenes in the neighborhood slightly disorienting. I knew some of the locations such as J. Hood Wright Park with its rock formations protruding from the concrete around them and the park office then presided over by Mr. Cutler. I went there after school as part of “Margie’s Group” to enjoy recreation after classes.

But I could not recognize the people in the film simply because they weren’t in the Heights when I was.

This exuberant film tells the story of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), his grandmother Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz) and his girlfriend Vanessa (Melissa Barrera).  A subplot involves Nina Rosario (Leslie Grace), a Stanford student and her boyfriend Benny (Corey Hawkins) a car service dispatcher.

The screenplay ties the plot and subplot together through a theme of attempting to realize a dream life while yoked with the reality of a life of hard work and near-poverty.  But the characters have fun through athletic dancing with large ensembles, partying (no drugs), great food and horsing around.

Its realization has some problems as do a lot, if not most, Hollywood films. Two of the most glaring problems are length and heavy telegraphing.

Two hours and twenty-three minutes is just too long. Hoping for dreams to come true does not require that much time.

When the audience knows what is going to happen because of heavy-handed clues, the end is being telegraphed. For example, anyone who hasn’t figured out that the two couples, Usnavi and Vanessa and Nina and Benny, are sure to get together is from another planet or has popcorn fatigue.

When grandma is told by grandson in their very first scene to remember to take her meds, the audience knows she is a goner.

When it finally happens, Abuela Claudia is taking a “nap” that segues into a big song and dance number from memories of her youth ending in her walking through a tunnel towards a shaft of light. From nap to the light is the longest death scene I can remember, much longer than opera’s Mimi and Violetta combined.

Hey, it’s a movie. Hoping that dreams come true accompanied by rap and rhythm is the stuff that movie musicals are supposed to do.

I appreciate the technical skill of  director John M. Chu and the inspired work of all of the actors. But I wish I had liked it more.