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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages honest communication, empathy, compassion, perseverance. As story makes very clear, lying, even out of a sense of kindness, has consequences, as does being manipulative. Stresses importance of a strong bond between parents and teens, the need for trusted adults, friends, or "chosen family" with whom vulnerable kids and teens can discuss difficult topics. Addresses the power -- both for better and worse -- of social media.
Positive Role Models
Evan is a deeply flawed person who tells a lie and then allows that lie to spread into more and more lies that grow out of control. But his friendship and lies do comfort the grieving Murphys, who believe that Evan is their dead son/brother's best (and only) friend. Evan's mother is hardworking and devoted, even if she's not always present (she has to work a lot of shifts to make ends meet). Zoe is loving and honest. The Murphys are generous even through their grief. Alana thinks of everyone who can be helped if the Connor Project allows those with mental health struggles or suicidal ideation to come forward and seek help.
Main characters are all White; supporting characters include a young Black woman and a South Asian and gay character. Some socioeconomic and invisible-disability diversity, including mental health conditions (OCD, anxiety, ADHD).
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Violence & Scariness
Several discussions of a central death by suicide, as well as how Evan fell out of a tree and fractured his arm. A high schooler yells in the face of a classmate and then pushes him; he falls down.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of kissing scenes, jokes about Evan's therapy letters to himself being "sex letters" and about a character's experience (or lack thereof), scenes of teen couples dancing and embracing at a school dance. Shirtless locker room scene. References to someone being "hot," and a couple of risqué song lyrics (about getting hard and about rubbing nipples and moaning, and the word "kinky" is used).
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Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "bats--t," "holy s--t," one use of "f--kin'," and social media language insulting Connor and his family.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine at dinner. Song lyrics include references to drug use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dear Evan Hansen is the stage-to-screen adaptation of the Tony Award-winning 2016 musical about a lonely high school senior who's mistaken for a dead classmate's best friend and then entangled in his family's grief. That classmate's death by suicide is a focal point of the story, and there are many references to his death, depression, and substance abuse. Expect occasional strong language, including one "f--kin'" and a few uses of "s--t." A character tells sexual jokes, and song lyrics include a few risqué lines (i.e., references to rubbing nipples and getting hard), but visuals are limited to a couple of kisses, dancing, and flirting. The main character's decision to continually manufacture lies (even if, at first, they're told to help a grieving family) taints his initially selfless intent. Ultimately, the story encourages honest communication, empathy, compassion, and perseverance and addresses the powerful role that social media can play in teens' lives. Ben Platt reprises his Broadway role as Evan, but the rest of the cast -- including Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlin Dever, and Amandla Stenberg -- is new. Stephen Chbosky directs. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.