It goes without saying that William Shakespeare is among the most influential writers and playwrights in history. From “12th Night” to “The Taming of the Shrew” to Macbeth” and “even Romeo and Juliet” and so much more, Shakespeare’s works have been done and redone more times than anyone can count on two hands. 20th Century Studios will release a reboot of one of the most well-known re-imaginings of “Romeo and Juliet” on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday in its recent reboot of the classic 1961 musical, West Side Story. Originally having debuted in theaters in 2021, this latest reboot is a mixed bag presentation. The reboot’s very presentation makes that clear. It is both positive and negative. The musical numbers included in the story are part of that general presentation and are positive in their own right. They will be discussed a little later. The cast’s work rounds out the most important of the reboot’s elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make this latest take of West Side Story worth watching at least once.
20th Century Studios’ reboot of West Side Story, which is itself a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” is an interesting presentation among the seemingly never-ending sea of prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on actual events. It is interesting in large part because of its general presentation. Unlike so many reboots of other movies out there, the general presentation here actually takes audiences back in time. This story is set in 1957, and the sets and costumes work hard to make sure that the time period is reflected. It would have been so easy for the movie’s creative heads to just allow the movie to be another 21st century update, like so many reboots out there today, but they didn’t go that route. To that end, it is somewhat refreshing to see that they took that proverbial road less traveled. What’s more, the movie in this presentation is a near shot for shot copy of the 1961 big screen classic, so in other words, the general presentation here does not necessarily break any new ground. It is admirable that the movie’s creative heads would go to such lengths to bring the 20th century into the 21st and pay such tribute to its source material.
At the same time that the reboot’s creative heads clearly wanted to honor the movie’s source material and its fans, that might actually not be such a good thing, either. If the 1961 movie could be updated without losing but so much of the original, then it leaves one wondering if there was any need to even do this, just for the sake of getting a new, younger generation of audiences interested in the story. The look of this new update does work to throw back to that of the original movie, but it tries too hard, to be honest. It all looks so spit shined what with the updated camera technology. Speaking of that tech, there are so many lens flares thrown in throughout the presentation that audiences will think they are watching a movie helmed by JJ Abrams, not Steven Spielberg. Audiences who are familiar with Abrams’ works will immediately understand that reference. It really serves to offset the positive in the effort to take audiences back to the original 1961 movie and further shows the needlessness of reboots.
While the general presentation of West Side Story is a bit of a mixed bag, the movie is not all bad. The musical numbers from the 1961 movie and its stage adaptations are all here, too. They come complete with the dance numbers used in those presentations, too. It continues to show the efforts of those behind the cameras to fully pay homage to the story’s source material and to its fans. The look, feel, and sound of those musical numbers does just as much to keep audiences engaged and entertained as the story. The playful back and forth of ‘I Want To Live In America,’ which points out the two contrasting views of the Puerto Ricans is made even more engaging what with the costumes and sets. The contrast of the happiness and tension between the two sides in ‘Tonight’ makes for its own interest as Maria is so happy while the gang members sing about their determination about the big fight that is going to happen. On yet another note, Rita Moreno’s mournful number near the story’s finale is just as moving as she recalls the past and examines the state of the city and nation at that point. These and all of the movie’s musical numbers go a long way toward making the latest reboot of West Side Story worth watching. When they are considered along with the cast’s work, those two elements and the general presentation all combine to make for at least some reason to give this reboot a chance.
Ansel Egort (Insurgent, Divergent, The Fault In Our Stars) leads the way as Tony in this latest take of West Side Story. He is to be applauded for the control that he exhibits throughout the movie. It would have been so easy for him to ham it up in a moment such as the balcony scene lifted from “Romeo and Juliet.” He instead did quite well in making Tony’s infatuation with Maria believable. This even though he clearly is not a teenager and neither is his co-star, Rachel Zegler (Shazam), who plays Maria this time out. Mike Faist (Wildling, The Atlantic City Story) deserves his own share of applause of Tony’s friend, Riff as his more combative mindset offsets that of Tony’s more peaceful thought patter. It makes Tony’s fate all the more tragic in the movie’s final scene. That is not a spoiler, either, considering how well known West Side Story is its own source material are. Faist’s performance as Riff makes it easy for audiences to love him and at the same time feel so sorry for him for having his mindset. Much the same can be said of the work of his counterpart, David Alvarez (American Rust, The Stamp Collector, Child’s Play), as he portrays Bernardo. He is just as set on combat as Riff, and it shows. He and Faist are both fully believable in their roles, their refusal to work toward peace. Sadly, so many people in today’s society are still so much like them, so kudos are in order for them in getting audiences to stop for a moment and think about that. Between these performances and so many others presented throughout the movie, the overall work of the cast proves to be its own positive that makes the movie worth watching. When it is considered along with their performances of the musical numbers of the positive side of the general presentation, the whole makes this movie a reboot that is worth seeing at least once.
20th Century Studios’ new reboot of West Side Story is an interesting presentation from the Disney-owned studio. Its interest comes in large part through its general presentation. The general presentation does not necessarily break any new ground in comparison to the 1961 cinematic presentation. That is both good and bad. The musical numbers add their own interest to the new presentation. That is because as with the general presentation, they also lift from the original, and the performances thereof are fully engaging and entertaining. The cast’s work in those moments and throughout the movie rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements. That is because their work is believable, and makes the viewing experience all the more immersive. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of West Side Story. All things considered, they make this reboot worth watching at least once.
West Side Story is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.