Review: “Dear Evan Hansen” Movie vs. Musical

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Carolina Johnson, iNews class reporter

Waving through his window of opportunities, Stephen Chbosky recently directed the new movie, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ was originally a musical that became so popular, the movie version was created. 

However, is the movie getting the same attention as the musical?

So far, 88% of the recent reviews on this movie have said they enjoyed it, although others are saying the movie didn’t do the musical justice. 

So which is the truth? Honestly that is up to the person watching.

Before getting into the different opinions between the musical and movie, let me summarize what the movie is generally about.

Dear Evan Hansen is a very informative and endearing movie about suicide and more issues teenagers face frequently. It gives watchers the chance to relate or learn from it. Suicide is an issue that can be hard to talk about; many choose to avoid this subject as a whole. Raising awareness towards suicide is something our community doesn’t focus on enough which is why this musical is so important. Watchers can learn the realities behind this issue and the different ways they can help. 

The plot focuses on Evan Hansen, the main character, and the struggles he goes through personally. Evan faces social anxiety disorder and has a really hard time making connections with other peers at school. Evan is desperate to make friends and would do anything to be able to talk to others with ease, especially one girl in particular. This desperation causes Evan to lie to the girl’s family about being friends with the girl’s recently dead brother. This hope for wanting to make friends causes Evan to get involved in a very tragic situation.

Photo by Matthew Murphy
Ben Platt performing one of “Dear Evan Hansen’s” most famous songs, “Waiting Through a Window.”

As I said before, some watchers believed that the movie didn’t display the musical properly and was a major letdown. One review written by Martha Mulligan expresses this opinion:

“I can’t bring myself to give it less than 3 stars, because I loved the on Broadway play so very much, but I was disappointed in the movie.” 

She added, “Things I wasn’t a fan of: In the play version, Evan was clean cut and although anxious and a little twitchy, he seemed more relatable to more teens in the play than the movie. He seemed far less likely to relate to the movie.”

Mulligan wasn’t the only one with this opinion on the main star, Ben Platt. Many viewers think Ben Platt is too old to be playing a relatable, 17 year old teenager. Many are saying he doesn’t look the part, so it is hard to imagine that he is the character he is portraying. 

Another review by Leo Hagele wrote: “I know people have brought this up before, but Ben Platt clearly being older than a senior makes it extremely difficult to empathize with Evan because it’s hard to believe that he’s just a naive teenager.

I understand Hagele and Mulligan’s opinion, Ben Platt has become a little old to play the part of a teenager. However, he was the original star. From the years of experience he has playing this character, I think it would be really hard for another actor to play Evan as well as Ben Platt. 

Hagele added,  “I feel like they didn’t need to make this a musical movie. In my opinion, some of the song scenes are the weakest parts. It feels awkward when there’s only one or a few people singing and it even sounds too quiet over the instrumental and other noises.”

While I understand Hagele’s point of view, I think making this musical into a movie was a wise decision. Due to a variety of different reasons, a lot of people don’t get the chance to see musicals. Why should they be denied the chance to see this? I think as moving as “Dear Evan Hansen” is, the more people that see it the better. As I said before, this musical brings up significant lessons that should be taught to our generation.

Multiple people have agreed that the movie isn’t worth watching since it didn’t quite capture the essence of the musical; however, others have a different take on the movie. 

One review written by Alexandra Hines wrote;

“Having seen and loved the play, I was worried when I saw the reviews for this movie were pretty bad. But luckily enough, I’m happy to report that the movie is really moving and powerful, I really enjoyed it!” 

Hines adds, “Stephen Chbosky really translated the dynamic sequences from the stage to the screen in brilliant ways, but some of it doesn’t feel as interesting or visually appealing as it does in the play. All the musical sequences were still stunning though, however I was pretty sad to see they cut some great (and important) songs from the play.”

Hines along with many others believe the movie was mostly successful in capturing eventful scenes found in the musical, however the musical had more of a visual appeal to it. I think this goes for musicals in general, it is very difficult for a movie to create the same performance musicals bring to the stage. 

There was also a lot of debate over the songs they removed and replaced. While Hines thinks some of the most important songs were cut, she also states: “The new songs were excellent too, especially “A Little Closer” which delivered a new (and better) ending to both Evan and Connor’s story. I thought this ending definitely was better than the one in the play, it redeems Evan a little more in my mind.”

Hines stated her opinion perfectly. I have to agree, it was disappointing that the movie was missing some of the best songs. However, the new songs they added were still brilliant and changed the plot in a positive way.

While many reviews think Ben Platt couldn’t pull off his character due to his age, Hines has a different opinion:

“And Ben Platt really helps sell it! Truly, I didn’t notice his age at all, especially once he started to sing. His voice is perfect and I can’t imagine anyone else playing this character, it has to be him.”

Ben Platt was the original Evan Hansen, many believe without him in the movie it couldn’t have touched the musical.

“The film itself really highlights issues of mental health struggles, anxiety and dealing with grief so well and provides messages of hope through the powerful lyrics. It truly shows the difficulties of navigating life in general and I think it’s an important note that the movie points out.”

Hines emphasizes how this film brings up important lessons and relatable content. Hines finalizes her opinion with:

“Now, the movie isn’t perfect and definitely has its problems but I think if you liked the play and the songs, it’s a no brainer, you should definitely see it. It had me crying and I really was stunned by the incredibly impactful and emotional story, I was completely drawn in. Don’t listen to the critics on this one folks, it may not be perfect but it’s surely a wonderful film and a great translation from the play.”

While the movie was really enjoyed by Hines, if it came to where Hines had to make a final decision she states:

“If it really comes down to it, the play is definitely better, but I’d have to say the second half of the movie really gives it a run for its money.”

Overall, while some reviews had positive opinions about the movie, the reviews seemed to prefer the musical over the movie. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see the film. When I saw “Dear Evan Hansen’, the musical, I was really moved and fascinated by the way each scene was performed. I can relate to these reviewers saying the musical was more engaging than the movie. It is hard to create the same essence musicals bring to the stage. Seeing this musical in person makes it feel more real, like what you’re watching isn’t just a performance. You don’t really get to experience this with the movie, while watching it on screen still causes you to feel a variety of different emotions, you still acknowledge that this is fake and just acting. However, I have to disagree with those saying to avoid the movie as a whole. 

While we’re still in a pandemic, seeing musicals may be a lot more challenging, so the movie allows you to still experience the overall entertainment of this musical. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ brings up important lessons that should be taught to our generation. 

So even if the movie didn’t manage to top the musical, you should still give this film a chance, especially if you haven’t seen the musical.