Judging by the turnout, or moreover those who came out for this (save for a gleek of “urban homies” who were expecting something a little more west from the westside, possibly mistaking this for a shoot ‘em up ghetto story with Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J or Dr. Dre), it could fairly be argued that it has its own cult following. (Call it a ‘snap-along.’)Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s modernized (for its day and time) and musicalized “Romeo and Juliet,” (with the music by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein) breaks the two families down to the whites/Jets, and the Puerto Ricans/Sharks. The gang rivalry and musical melee mushrooms even broader when the Romeo of the Jets falls in love with the Juliet of the Puerto Ricans, and the doomed lovers endeavor to make the best of their respective dilemmas whilst trying to change their cohorts’ minds to match the conformity of their own. West Side Story fairly represents both POVs, flip-flopping to make each side look as foolish as the next, or to frustratingly express their own difficulties and repression as to what is proceleusmatic to their deportment. Unfortunately, both sides are offered up in a highly, thickly designed stereotypes (heavier than even Natalie Wood’s dark make-up), with the Puerto Rican hackneyed image tipping the scales. (Some of the actors use what’s closer to a Transylvanian dialect rather than a Spanish accent.) Ultimately, there are too many musical numbers, with a song-and-dance ingenite out of nearly every single scene, without a remaining drop to squeeze out at the end. The memorable sequences will stay with you after, but the mediocre and prosaic are mood-altering and too close in contiguity. At least, for the most part that is, the camera is relatively content to be unobtrusive in tracking and tailing the dances, never getting too carried away and opting to participate as well. The color cinematography adds a character of its own to the ensemble, but it is pasty and smudgy, making its presence unintentionally inauspicious—only another disappointment to add to the list.
With Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, Ned Glass and Susan Oakes.Final Verdict: C+.