The Stream: West Side Story (1961) is a classic, so why is West Side Story (2021) necessary.
The Big Screen: Incredible visuals, great songs, and exceptional cast firing on all cylinders.
The Final Bill: West Side Story (2021) keeps that indelible essence of the original but adds a fresh perspective from the modern era.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, and Rita Moreno
Genre: Musical, Drama
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong violence and strong language
Runtime: 2 hours 30 minutes
Production Companies: 20th Century Studios, Amblin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment
Platform: In Theaters on December 10, 2021
Trailers: Cyrano, The Matrix Resurrections, Marry Me, Turning Red, The King’s Man, A Journal for Jordan
Hey Daddy-o, boy, boy, crazy boy… You know what I mean, Streamers? If you’re not busting to get out of your seat, then I don’t know what’s going on. Remember: when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day. Okay… these earworms have me buzzing, Daddy-o! You guessed it – I was hyped to see West Side Story (2021), and it’s got me … could be… who knows… It’s in theaters, now. It may be obvious, but here’s how I rumbled with it.
West Side Story (1961) won 10 Academy Awards; so, of course, it needed to be fixed. That’s why there is now Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (2021). Tony Kushner wrote a new screenplay, and the classic songs from the original Broadway musical are present. The story is essentially Romeo & Juliet set in 1950s New York with the feuding families being the white street gang, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican immigrant gang, the Sharks. Tony, a (former) member of the Jets, falls in love at first sight with Maria, the little sister of the Sharks’ leader. Tensions boil over between the Jets and the Sharks because of insidious sociological issues that are aggravated by this romance between Tony and Maria. Dancing and singing ensue.
Steven Spielberg is really a master. I guess that goes without saying. But, who can take a story that has already been made into a classic movie musical and put his own stamp on it? Spielberg gives this film such movement and color and energy. West Side Story has been around for at least 60 years, but the construction of the story by Tony Kushner and what appears on screen as directed by Spielberg feels fresh and exciting. The dance sequences look great like when the cast is dancing in the streets during “America” or when the gangs confront each other at the gym dance – each new set piece is awe-inspiring. The vibrancy of it all is infectious.
Along with the images captured and put together by Spielberg, a lot of what works is due to a dynamic cast. Tony and Maria are characters that are kind of bland, but they can still be sweet. Rachel Zegler plays Maria as a wide-eyed young woman just experiencing freedom and love in New York. Zegler is an engaging screen presence. Ariana DeBose plays Anita with fire and passion. Her singing is powerful and the dancing is top notch. When DeBose is on screen, she has a commanding presence. The cast is uniformly good from the main characters to those who are only dancing in the background. They all capture the energy and sustain it through each turn that the film takes. Even though you may know how it all ends, it is still a joy to take the ride to the final scene.
West Side Story (2021) does exactly what a remake should do. It keeps the essence of the original and adds a fresh perspective from the modern era. It is packed with great dance sequences, those iconic songs and visuals to keep the audience engaged for its runtime.
Grab a big box of popcorn tonight
Don’t miss this in theaters tonight
(Disclaimer: if you feel comfortable going to movie theaters…)