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West Side Story: Why Did Spielberg Do This?



West Side Story

West Side Story

Starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler

Directed by  Steven Spielberg

Rating: ** ½

Without beating  around  the bush, let’s get to the brass-tacks. Westside Story  is a completely  unnecessary remake of   Robert Wise’s  1961 ebullien  musical feature film .

There is nothing  Wise about Spielberg’s remake  which is  as  flat as a pancake  and  as  listless as an apple-pie left to  wither in   the sun. The actors are an energetic  lot, no doubt about it. But nothing compared with what  Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer brought to the screen in  the original. Their replacements Ansel Elgort and RachelZiegler are  zestful and  zingy. But at best  adequate  substitutes.  They create  no magic whatsoever  on screen.

It’s like watching two siblings dancing  on  a reality show  where the judges are Faran Khan and  Remo D’Souza and the chief guest John Travolta  refused to turn  up at the  last moment. In  other words, a flopshow  from the word go.

Why would  anyone of Spielberg’s stature do this  to  himself?I  can see the challenge in  it  for Spielberg: take  the clichéd Romeo-Juliet story(there’s a firescape sequence  echoing the balcony scene  in Shakespeare) and turn it into  his own  kind of magic.

Sadly  the outcome is  more tragic than magic. We are left looking at Puerto Rican  boys and  girl dancing and singing to challenge the ‘Gringos’:  that’s what the  local American  youngsters are called. The two  sides fight and dance and sing  and behave  like what they are: wastrels   with wasps in their waists and  a rumble  in their bellies.Some of the choreography that is original us exciting. Those adapted  from the  original are  casualties of excessive freedom.

None  of  the cast is  anywhere close  to echoing the  unstoppable energy  of the original.Puerto Rican Maria and American Tony meet at party.It is, you guessed, love at first sight. From these bland beginnings it’s downhill  for the storytelling which flirts with  flimsiness with the  enthusiasm  of  a young teenaged girl  trying to get the attention of a   local hoodlum by wearing her  mother’s high heels and lipsick.

The  romance grows  not so  much out of  their mutual  affection as  the  classic music score by Leonard Bernstein which  bursts at  the seams to make its  presence felt, because the songs are not accompanied by any convincing choreography.

The actors take to the ethic milieu simmering with a zest which at best is applicable to the milieu they occupy so  insolently. By  the  time the  singing and dancing stops for a tragic ending this remake of  a film that  was  adapted  from the stage , has run completely   out of steam.

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