Review by Dan Skip Allen
West Side Story is the latest film by Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of all time. It's another film in a long line of reboots of classic films from the bygone era of cinema. The only difference is the original won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1961. So why reboot it you ask? When Speilberg says he wants to do it, you don't argue and 20th Century let him go because it's Speilberg.
Without sounding redundant, West Side Story is about a group of caucasian teens in New York City who have a beef with a bunch of Puerto Rican teens. They think that the Puerto Ricans are trying to take over their section of New York. What accentuates the situation is that Tony (Ansel Elgort) from the Jets is infatuated by Maria (Rachel Zegler) whose brother is the leader of the Sharks, the rival gang who's fighting for territory in the neighborhood.
There are a few differences between the original and the new version of West Side Story though. One of them is that the store owner in the new film is played by Rita Moreno and in the original, he was played by a man. And in the original, Rita Moreno played Anita which is played by Ariana DeBose in the new film. Also, there is a similar feel and tone to the music in the new version of West Side Story because Leonard Bernstein created the music for the original, and Gustavo Dudamel mirrored a lot of what Bernstein did in the new version. It is a great score by everyone involved.
Some of the things this new film does right that the original didn't was the set production and production value as a whole. The New York streets came to life in this version and that helped make this story more realistic as well. Every little detail was thought of from the people on the streets walking by or driving their cars to the little details like laundry hanging from windows, trash cans, fruits, and vegetables on shop corners. Even store signs and so forth were all very authentic to the time and place this film is supposed to take place in. The clothes and housewares are also spot on. Spielberg spared no expense on the details of this version of West Side Story.
The cast is filled with relative nobodies except for Elgort, Zegler, Moreno, and Brian Darcy James as Officer Krupke and Corry Stoll as Police Lt. Shrank. The kids in the cast, actually adults, do a solid job on the singing and dancing. The choreography is on point throughout the film. The songs are great as well from the original film, like "America", "Tonight", and "Maria".
The new version of West Side Story is very good. It pulls a lot from the original but it has its charm and feel that sets it apart from the original like the set production and production value. The new songs are catchy as well. The acting is fine from all involved, not great but also not bad either. The score is amazing even though it's very similar to what we already saw. There are a lot of new aspects to the score that makes it one of the best of the year.
West Side Story hits theaters on December 10.