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West Side Story (2021) 4K Review

By   Mar 16, 2022 12:59 PM EST

Rachel Zegler, who plays West Side Story’s Maria, is an incredible find.

It may seem difficult to believe but it has been almost seventy-five years since Jerome Robbins (On the Town) conceived the idea and shared the concept of bringing a modern version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to Broadway as a musical.  It took another eight years for the idea to be realized when, after some changes and revisions, it debuted on Broadway.  In 1958 it was nominated for six Tony Awards and won two.  

Four years later the movie adaptation, starring Natalie Wood (Rebel Without a Cause), Richard Beymer (Twin Peaks), George Chakiris (Meet Me in Las Vegas), and Rita Moreno (The King and I) premiered and won ten out of the eleven Oscars it was nominated for, including best picture.  At the time an eleven-year-old named Steven fell in love with the story and music and sixty years later, Academy Award-winning director, Steven Spielberg released a remake, which has been nominated for seven Academy Awards this year, including best picture.  This week, the latest version of West Side Story hits stores on Blu-ray and 4K.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Marie are doomed lovers.  They are from two different worlds even though they live within a ten-block radius from each other in New York City.  She is a Puerto Rican Immigrant, and he is an American who was part of a gang (The Jets) that hates the new immigrants and their gang (The Sharks).  Despite resistance and objections from everyone around them, Tony and Maria are determined to be together.  Sadly, so often when there is hate there is violence, and their story ultimately ends in tragedy.

The 1961 version is so iconic that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the roles of Maria, Tony, Bernardo, and Anita but Spielberg found some young talent that do their best.  Rachel Zegler, who plays West Side Story's Maria,  is an incredible find.  Her talent knows no bounds as her acting is only outshined by her singing which is excellent.  Surprisingly, Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) is cast as Tony, and he does a good job overall but is upstaged by Zegler.  The surprise is that Elgort can really sing...who knew!?!?!  

Broadway talent Ariana DeBose steps into the role of Anita but she has some big shoes to fill.  For younger audiences, they will probably find her to be very good but for those who saw the original film will compare her to Moreno and Moreno wins hands down.  Interestingly, Moreno plays Valentina, Doc's widow who runs the drug store. She also executive produces the film and incorporating her into the updated production was a smart move for Spielberg.

The remake, put together with a one hundred-million-dollar budget, had some production issues that are apparent on the 4K disc.  The 2160p video quality is sharp and details are clean, but some scenes shot on a soundstage look incredibly fake which is distracting.  The most blatant offenses are the scenes filmed to look as if the actors are at a demolition site.  

Conversely, the Dolby Atmos audio is robust, layered, and rich sounding with depth laden throughout.  Of course, one should expect no less from Bernstein and Sondheim's intricate music and lyrics.  The extras are housed on the Blu-ray disc and are lumped together in one big hour and a half long featurette called The Stories of West Side Story. Cast and crew interviews along with comparisons to the 1961 film are presented and offer some interesting facts.

If this had been a brand-new Spielberg movie, I would have said the production value, cast and plot are all strong and the film is entertaining.  However, since this is a remake of a classic film that was a critical and box office success previously, comparisons will obviously be made, and I prefer the 1961 version over the 2021 version.  It isn't a bad movie; it just isn't an improvement from the sixty-year-old story.

Grade: B+


Purchase West Side Story On Amazon   Purchase a DVD/Blu-ray/4K UHD physical copy of West Side Story today at Amazon.com

download from itunes   Download West Side Story in Digital HD/4K from the iTunes store.

Listen to the Soundtrack for West Side Story   Listen to the West Side Story soundtrack on Apple Music.


Directed By:

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 156 minutes
Distributed By: 20th Century Studios

For more information about West Side Story visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. This release has been provided to FlickDirect for review purposes.

West Side Story images are © 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

About Allison Rose



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