This adaptation benefits from its all-star cast and Platt's amazing voice, but it also highlights the differences between stage and screen -- i.e., a musical's book isn't necessarily meant to be a screenplay. It's undeniable that Platt can sing, and anyone who's listened to the Tony-winning show's cast recording or was lucky enough to see the original stars on Broadway can attest to his talents on the Great White Way. But on the big screen, five years after he originated the role, Platt feels too old -- and too theatrical in his physicality (which works perfectly on-stage but can be too much onscreen) -- to seamlessly portray Evan. The shortcomings of the show's book are glaring in a two-hours-plus film, and although some changes were made for the better, it's ultimately disappointing, because director Stephen Chbosky is a YA and adaptation specialist.
It's hard not to feel like this version of Dear Evan Hansen doesn't meet the inflated expectations of fans of Platt and Broadway. That's not to say that there aren't aspects that work well, like the women in the ensemble: Adams, Dever, Moore, and Stenberg all add an authenticity to their parts and an emotional range to their songs. Moore is somewhat underused as Evan's always-at-work mom but in the last act gives a powerful performance of "So Big/So Small," while Stenberg contributes to the new-for-the-film song "The Anonymous Ones." Dever and Adams provide different perspectives on grief, first from losing Connor and then from feeling betrayed by the eventual and inevitable outing of Evan's deception. That deception and how it's handled in the movie is one of the film's biggest missteps, because it renders Evan unlikable nearly beyond redemption. Still, while this musical adaptation isn't going to top any best-of lists, Platt's voice helps make up for his acting. For some of its individual parts, Dear Evan Hansen is worth seeing, but as a sum of those parts, it lacks the cohesion necessary to elevate it beyond a singularly focused vehicle for Platt to re-create his award-winning stage performance.