RICHMOND, Va. -- Like Santa Claus and jingle bells, nothing goes together quite like dance fighting and cultural bigotry as prominently displayed in this newest take on a beloved musical.
In a world that is the slums of New York City in the late 1950s, our Romeo and Juliett, Tony and Maria, fall head over heels for each other, much to the chagrin of their friends and family. Their relationship and subsequent family drama escalate exceptionally rapidly within 48 hours or so, plenty of time though for emotions to be expressed through the majesty of song.
Clocking in at over two and a half hours, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the film kept my attention. It didn’t feel that long.
It is visually exceptional, with Spielberg showing off what he can do, though he was a little heavy-handed with intense backlighting. The acting, dancing and musical chops were all there creating a fantastic performance from the cast. The songs were all there too, though some more catchy or memorable than others.
My only real issue with this take is the decision by Spielberg to keep in so many race and ethnic-based insults and slang terminology that hopefully, we don’t hear too much of these days. Hearing them repeatedly, pulled me out of the film each time. If he could take the guns out of the cops' hands in "E.T." he could've dropped these awful phrases from this version and we’d still understand the Jets and the Sharks don’t like each other.
Though I was in choir in high school and was a drama minor in college, musicals aren’t typically my thing, but even I managed to get into this one. Even though it was a remake, I appreciated that it was different than a lot of what Hollywood shovels out these days. I gotta hand it to Spielberg, I think he did a pretty good job here.
I thought West Side Story was really good.