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mplo's Movie Reviews (1)

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West Side Story 
West Side Story; The Classic That Never Grows Old
4/4 stars

West Side Story, to me, is the classic that never grows old. It's my all time favorite movie, hands down, and, whether I watch it on television, or on a great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre with the lights down low, it always feels fresh and new to me, and like I'm seeing it for the first time.

Unlike many other classics, even the other ones that I've liked well enough to see more than once and have become somewhat frayed around the edges despite being likeable, West Side Story still shines brightly 50 years later. The brilliant Bernstein musical score, the beautifully-choreographed dancing by the late Jerome Robbins, the wonderful cast (except Richard Beymer is somewhat weak and lacklustre as Tony), as well as the richly colored costumes and photography, and the very story behind WSS are all combined to make West Side Story the neat, dynamic effervescent package that it is.

As a devout fan of this great golden oldie-but-keeper of a movie/musical classic who's also seen a number of stage versions, including the revised, up to date Broadway production of WSS (which I looked at with a more critical eye), who has attended virtually every screening of West Side Story that has come to our area (the one exception being in mid March 2001, when a memorial for my late dad conflicted with an afternoon screening of WSS, so I didn't go to WSS that day), I have also made several road trips to neighboring states, including NY, to see this film in a real movie theatre.

When shown on the great big, wide screen, West Side Story seems to take on a magical, almost 3-dimensional quality to it. The scenery is more expansive, and one can see all of everything. The brilliant musical score, great photography, and dancing, as well as the very story itself, all seem more intense, forboding, strong, happy and exuberant, at the same time. The various characters in the film, from the warring Jets and Sharks to the romancing Tony and Maria all seem to move more freely and fluidly, and in a much wider, more open space. The individual characters' personalities seem more vivid, and even Richard Beymer (who I've always considered a somewhat weak, lacklustre Tony), comes off as being more alive and vital on the great big, wide screen.

While there are a number of other films, both older and newer, that I've liked well enough to see more than once, none of them hold the same special place in my heart regarding movies as West Side Story, which seems to beckon me to see it whenever it comes to a place reasonably close to where I live. This movie is also in a class by itself, because it definitely needs to be watched all the way from the very beginning to the very end, and it's one of the few musicals that's been successful on both stage and screen (although I found certain things about the new, up to date Broadway revival of WSS rather troubling).

The subject matters that West Side Story touches on, such as racial/ethnic tensions, urban gang warfare, abusive or indifferent cops, adults who try to help the kids and assume authority over them, the issues of domestic abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, delinquency, and love and romance that crosses the racial/ethnic barriers and takes root amid conflict, only to be destroyed by the very conflict that it develops in the wake of, are all as relevant today as ever, and even happen in real life.

Hey... I know that in real life, gangs don't go dancing through the streets on their way to or through rumbles, and that people don't usually fall in love at first sight, but in the event that they do, it still takes time for that love to really take root and develop into something really substantial. As one neighbor of mine that I talked to put it; West Side Story is fiction, and yet it's closer to reality in some respects.

Having said all of the above, West Side Story is a movie that's a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and heart. The MGM quote "Unlike other Classics, West Side Story grows younger" is so true. Whether one is a devout fan of WSS like me, who makes it a point to view this great film every time it comes around, whether one has only seen it on television or DVD, or has never seen it at all, if it ever comes to a repertory movie house in your area, I say jump at the opportunity. It's a rich, fulfilling experience that you'll never forget.

West Side Story is a classic that never grows old.

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