6.5/10 Winner of 10 out of the 11 Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Director and Best Picture, 1961’s “West Side Story” is an absolute musical classic that holds up extremely well. I’ve seen the film many times but gave it yet another look before checking out the Steven Spielberg directed remake. While Spielberg has wanted to direct a musical for his entire career, the problem is that you can’t really improve too much upon a classic. Remakes should be reserved for movies that fell short of their potential. When you try to improve upon a masterpiece, there is only so much you can do. In that regard, Spielberg does a solid job with improved choreography and improved production design. The original film and this remake both have fantastic cinematography and editing so those two categories end up being a draw. I also enjoyed how the character of Tony (Ansel Elgort) gets some more character development with his background, which was a smart improvement. However, not all of the changes here are good ones. In the original, a girl desperately wants to be in the all-boys Jets gang and here she gets turned into a trans boy (a girl) and played by a non-binary actress for some peak political correctness that only 2021 could bring. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure there weren’t tons of trans individuals lining up to join gangs in the 1950s. There are also some casting issues. While Rachel Zegler is a complete revelation and easily the best performance in the film, Ansel Elgort falls short compared to the Tony from the original, played by Richard Beymer. Not only did Beymer have a much better singing voice but his performance was also better. Tony has just fallen madly in love yet Elgort often has a serious look on his face as opposed to the giant grin that Beymer portrayed. Despite Zegler being perfect as Maria, I give the casting to the original over this remake. Both films have a couple issues in common. I always found it a bit silly that two people can meet for five minutes and fall in love. This issue is somewhat forgiven due to this being a musical so realism isn’t the main focus but with a two and a half hour running time, some more development between Tony and Maria to make them falling in love more believable would have been nice. The police characters in both films are also extremely one note with no development, which is unfortunate. When musicals get remade, they often add new songs to help justify retelling the same story (“Learn to Be Lonely” for 2004’s “The Phantom of the Opera” or “Evermore” from 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast”) yet this remake offers no new music to add to an experience we’ve already had in the Broadway show or the 1961 film adaptation. Several songs were just done better in the 1961 film like “Gee Officer Krupke” but this goes back to my original complaint that despite Spielberg’s talent, he was never really going to improve upon such a classic that didn’t need to be retold. I would have much rather seen him tackle a musical that hadn’t been adapted to film before or a mediocre one that needed improvement. This well made remake is fine but stick with the original for the superior musical experience.

#Chino911! / #FeaturingRiffTracks / #CoolYourJets / #SharkRavingMad / #LetsGetReadyToRumble / #TaleAsOldAsSondheim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s