'West Side Story' Remake Praised by Critics: 'Spielberg Topped the Original'

Steven Spielberg's new take on the musical West Side Story has critics calling the film "incredible" and "phenomenal"

Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort
Photo: Niko Tavernise

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story remake has critics swooning.

The film screened for the first time on Monday and critics were quick to share their reactions on social media afterward, including Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt, who tweeted, "Nobody needed to mess with #WestSideStory but Steven Spielberg went and did it and dammit it's really good, great looking & largely faithful to the text with a few smart respectful tweaks and a young cast I now want to to see in everything."

DiscussingFilm's awards editor Diego Andaluz called the movie "incredible," adding that Spielberg, 74, "delivers an award-worthy visual spectacle that expands on the original as a timely technical masterpiece. Every department fires on all cylinders, & Rachel Zegler steals the show with THE star-making debut performance of the year."

Newcomer Zegler, 20, plays the lead role of Maria in West Side Story opposite Ansel Elgort as Tony, as the two star-crossed lovers fall on opposite sides of a forbidden romance in 1957 New York.

The cast also includes original star Rita Moreno in an all-new role, plus The Prom's Ariana DeBose as Anita, who were both celebrated as standouts as well.

"Steven Spielberg's #WestSideStory is a TRIUMPH! It's beautiful & brilliantly photographed - a real love letter to NYC w/ a tremendous ensemble cast who truly redefine this classic story for a new generation. Shout outs to @rachelzegler & @ArianaDeBose who CRUSH it in this film," said Erik Davis of RottenTomatoes and Fandango.

Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort
Niko Tavernise

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About Moreno, 89, AwardsWatch's Erik Anderson tweeted, "Everyone is superb but standout performances from Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist and Rita Moreno's restrained 'Somewhere' is a heartbreaker." Anderson added that "Zegler's voice is so perfect here."

IndieWire's Anne Thompson called the movie "powerful" and added of the "gifted" cast, "With all the movie's muscular choreography, the standouts are Broadway's Ariana DeBose as Anita & Oscar-winning original Rita Moreno, and newcomer Rachel Zegler."

Chris Evangelista from /Film said West Side Story is "phenomenal" and "top-tier Spielberg," while Beyond the Trailer's Grace Randolph compared the remake to the 1961 original film, saying, "Wow I can't believe it - Spielberg topped the original."

West Side Story is in theaters Dec. 10.

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