West Side Story

MPAA Rated – Unrated
It’s 2:33 Long
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

West Side Story
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris
MPAA Rated: Unrated
Released By: Twentieth Century Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Kiddie Movie: There are a few killings, but and I doubt little boys would like it.
Date Movie: Go ahead, snuggle with your honey on the couch and hum along.
Gratuitous Sex: Nah.
Gratuitous Violence: Some stabbings and a shooting.
Action: There is chasing, but they’re dancing and prancing at the same time.
Laughs: A chuckle or two.
Memorable Scene: Every time the dude with the tight pants that accented his package was on the screen.
Memorable Quote: Mostly just the songs.
Directed By: Jerome Robbins

I was negative-six years old when “West Side Story” originally hit the theater, and believe it or not, in those fifty years, I have never seen the movie nor a stage representation of the story.  I do find this somewhat surprising as I was a theaterish kind of guy in high school, and my mom loved a good musical, but alas, no “West Side Story” for me.  That’s not to say I wasn’t familiar with the music, although I sometimes got things confused with “The Sound of Music” (yes, I’ll admit, I thought “Maria” was from The Sound of Music), but come on, who doesn’t sometimes hum the tune “America”?  Feeling I was missing something in my life, and knowing the fact that my wife was a big fan of the movie, when the opportunity came to review “West Side Story,” being released in a 50th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, I felt it my duty.  And I must say, even with the dancing and prancing, I really liked it.

Let’s get to it…

“West Side Story” bases itself off of the classic Shakespeare concept of “Romeo & Juliet,” only this time lets’ make our competing factions be two rival street gangs in New York City, the Sharks and the Jets, and it’s set back in the late 50’s/early 60’s, so they aren’t like gangs we are really used to, well, almost.  The Jets are pretty much the European immigrants, and the Sharks are the Puerto Rican immigrants looking to invade the turf of the Jets.  Alas, Tony (Richard Beymer) is trying to grow up, get his life straight, and used to be the leader of the Jets.  Maria (Natalie Wood) is the sister of the leader of the Sharks.  As the Jets and Sharks plot their rumble, low and behold Tony and Maria fall in love, and yes, do their best to keep their love a secret.

But things are getting serious in rumble land, with the fighting escalating from talk of dancing and prancing (Okay, I kid, it’s a musical and the fighting is sort of ballet-ish), to knife wielding, and when things go horribly wrong with the knife fighting, well, it’s time for someone to get a gun.

People die, someone gets shot, it’s like “Romeo and Juliet” so it’s not really a happy ending, but even though set 50 years ago, it’s a great love story, and even though you know someone’s going to end up dead, you can’t help but hope that somehow are two lovebirds would be able to get away and live a full life in wedded bliss.

Yes, the movie is a musical, and it is from 50 years ago so it does look dated, and sure, the outfits might look kind of funny for us now (Someone I know really well couldn’t help but notice the bulge in one of the guy’s pants, and therefore, for the rest of the night, it kept being pointed out), but as a film it still looks great, from an era when great camera work had to take the place of green screens and CGI.  And yes, the acting is great, at least on some fronts (Yup, Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer are great), although sometimes it drifts into over-acting mode as was prevalent at the time.

And yes, lastly, there is the music, where as I watched the movie, I kept finding myself saying “Hey, I know that song.”  Even though 50 years old, it’s music that truly stands the test of time.

So, as  movie, it’s 5 stars out of 5 for “West Side Story.”  Yup, I liked it, even with the dancing and prancing.

Now, as far as the 50th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, let me say it’s pretty fantastic, especially for the “West Side Story” fan.  The movie itself looks great, as it should, but there is a 4-Disc set that includes a CD and collectable memorabilia, and for the basic 3-Disc set you get some pretty sweet extras as well. Do you want to get the inside scoop about how shots were made – you get that and more during a very detailed explanation of how the movie was made, the challenges the actors had, and the changes that were made in song ideas.  There is also another segment of memories of West Side Story, and if you are a movie buff, a look at the storyboard progression of the film.  You can also watch the movie in “Pow! The Dances of West Side Story” mode, and if you’re a dance buff it’s great because it will help explain how the dance sequences came to light.  And don’t forget the music, as Stephen Sondheim the lyricist give a commentary for all of the great songs.

All in all, in the world of Blu-ray special editions, they did “West Side Story” right, as it should be for a movie that is a classic.

That’s it for this one!  I’m The Dude on the Right!!  L8R!!!