The Crusader Newspaper Group

West Side Story 2021 is pleasant recreation

I remember going to the Orpheum Theater in my hometown of Champaign, Illinois, to see “West Side Story.” I was nine years old, and it was the first time I could go to the movies with my friends without our parents. We all loved the movie, especially when the Puerto Ricans were on the screen. I don’t think any of us had ever met anyone from Puerto Rico, but we identified with them and the way they dressed and danced, and George Chakiris was so good looking. When the character Anita came on screen, our jaws dropped. She was pretty and could dance and we all wanted to be her.

How is West Side Story 2021 different from the original film? Director Steven Spielberg brings realism to the story through language, authenticity, beautiful voices, and great dancing.

I am sure you know the story of the territorial fight between the Sharks (Latino) and the Jets (white) gangs. Never shall they meet or get along. The Jet’s former leader Tony sees Maria (Bernardo, sister of the Sharks’ leader) at a dance, and all hell breaks loose.

There were so many ways this remake of the Oscar-winning 1961 film could have gone, the road of many other remakes, in a bad way. I’m glad to say that it doesn’t.

The 2021 version blends the greatness of the original with the authenticity of the new and created a fresh film that will be seen by generations to come. Spielberg brought together the right group of people to make sure that the story was told in a more realistic way. Rita Moreno signing on as Executive Producer was a definite way to make sure that in hindsight, select portions of the original were corrected.

I loved the way Spanish was incorporated into the dialogue spoken as it would be in Latino families, without subtitles. Casting Rachel Zegler in her film debut as Maria was right on point. Her voice is amazing, and her portrayal of Maria as the innocent, but smart and strong-willed young lady is perfect and brings a different touch to the character.

To be honest I had to get used to Ansel Elgort as Tony. I don’t know what it was, but it took me a while to warm up to him in the role. However, he did win me over by the balcony scene.

The standout to me is Ariana DeBose as Anita. When she was on screen, she stole the show. Her acting, singing and dancing was the glue of the film.

Morena played the role of Valentina. Her story line brings a new layer to the film. She married a white store owner, and their mixed marriage was eventually accepted, but the Jets didn’t look at her as being like the “other Puerto Ricans.” The twist is she sings the song, “A Place for Us,” and it fits so perfectly in the film.

You can’t have “West Side Story” without great dancing, but for some reason the choreographer isn’t listed in the credits. The person who created the choreography for the 2021 film is Justin Peck, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet. He deserves to be recognized.

I must mention the 2021 rendition of Officer Krupke is top notch, funny, and fresh.

The 1961 original film “West Side Story” will still have a special place in my heart, but West Side Story – 2021 has its own place there also.

I’m giving West Side Story – 2021, 4 out of 5 winks of the EYE.

Until next time keep your EYE to the sky!

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