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West Side Story Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying About Steven Spielberg’s Musical Remake

The Jets and Sharks have a stare-off in West Side Story
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story has been one of the most anticipated movies of the last two years, by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t released in 2020 as originally planned. Based on early reviews, every movie that won an Oscar earlier this year might want to thank Steven Spielberg for not releasing the movie, because he has a serious contender and something critics clearly believe is one of the best movies of 2021.

Most critics are singing the praises of West Side Story and calling not only one of the best movies of this year, but possibly one of the best movies in the career of Steven Spielberg. CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg gave the movie a 4.5 star review. That missing half a star is due to Ansel Elgort, who is apparently missing something in his performance, but the rest of the movie is near perfect.  

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is a stunning cinematic time machine that sometimes feels unreal in the energy it successfully captures.

And Eric isn’t the only one who is completely, or almost completely, blown away by West Side Story. Slashfilm also sees the movie as a complete triumph, not just for the cast, but for Steven Spielberg himself. West Side Story is so good it makes you wish Spielberg had been making musicals for years.   

These big numbers will have you wondering why the hell it took Spielberg this long to finally make a musical. It's invigorating that at 74, the filmmaker can still challenge himself and deliver something spectacular to his audience. The real star here isn't the cast, good as they may be. It's Spielberg, who steps into the world of the movie musical and shows modern-day filmmakers how it's done.

While many of the West Side Story reviews are absolutely glowing, with only amazing things to say about Steven Spielberg, the performance of Rachel Zegler, and Ariana DeBose, among others, there are some that are, while still positive, are a bit more grounded. ScreenRant finds the movie to be good overall but also finds that some of the attempts to modernize the story a bit don’t really work. 

West Side Story is visually entrancing, emotional, and the choreography and staging magnetic even when certain aspects of the story don't always work.

And while there are some attempts to update the movie, some critics don’t feel there are enough changes in West Side Story. While the vast majority are on board for this one, the movie has a 90% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, there are a few that for whom the movie just doesn’t work. Total Film feels that the new version of West Side Story ultimately doesn’t add enough as compared to the popular original, and thus it is found to be a largely unnecessary movie.

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is that curious kind of remake: impressively put together, but so reverentially similar to the original it doesn't quite warrant the effort.

So with a few outliers, it seems like West Side Story is a winner. If critical reception is anything to go by, we will be hearing a lot about this movie come awards season. West Side Story arrives in theaters for the rest of us to see December 10. 

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.