Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Here's What Critics Are Saying About West Side Story So Far

"West Side Story" is one of the most well-known musicals of our time. A retelling of the classic Romeo and Juliet tale, "West Side Story" first hit Broadway in 1957 and quickly became a huge hit. The production gained further acclaim and attention with the beloved 1961 film adaptation, largely thanks to the contributions of the enormous musical talents of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Now, the ballad of Tony and Maria will be told to a younger generation of moviegoers, this time with legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg at the helm of a new adaptation of the musical.

Remaking such a beloved tale is a difficult endeavor for anyone to take on, even for a celebrated Hollywood veteran like Spielberg. However (and unsurprisingly), it seems like the old pro knew what he was doing with his new take on "West Side Story." The 20th Century Studios movie musical premiered in New York City on November 29, after being one of the many films delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As far as the critics are concerned, Spielberg's take on the cherished musical is worth the wait — and deserves all of the hype.

Critics overwhelmingly love West Side Story

Critics and journalists lucky enough to attend screenings of "West Side Story" ahead of its December 10 theatrical release took to Twitter to share their love of the film. "Hot damn. So, yes, as it turns out, Steven Spielberg knows how to make a 'West Side Story' movie," said Mike Ryan of Uproxx. Esther Zuckerman of Thrillist had similar praise, commenting, "It's sorta like you shouldn't underestimate Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner," referring to the Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who serves as the screenwriter for the movie musical.

Some critics were initially apprehensive of the film but ultimately pleasantly surprised, like Brandon Norwood, who reacted with, "As someone who was questioning why this whole enterprise and why Spielberg wanted to redo a classic, he made THE definitive version. I will never doubt the master again."

Diego Andaluz of Discussing Film praised "West Side Story" as "an award-worthy visual spectacle that expands on the original as a timely technical MASTERPIECE." Andaluz was also quick to commend Rachel Zegler, who takes on the iconic role of Maria, calling her take on the character the "star-making debut performance of the year." 

Zegler's performance is indeed a standout for many, with Empire's Amon Warmann commenting, "I am now a Rachel Zegler stan," and The Hollywood Reporter's Beatrice Verhoeven saying, "Rachel Zegler. That's all. That's the tweet. Her voice gave me goosebumps."

Ansel Elgort's performance is a disappointment

However, critics had less kind things to say about her co-star Ansel Elgort. Ansel Elgort takes on the lead role of Tony, but according to critics, his performance leaves much to be desired.

"'West Side Story' is extremely good, and Ansel Elgort is just terrible in it! Quite the conundrum!!" exclaimed Jason Bailey on Twitter. Josh Sewell called Elgort a "wet blanket," with Tia Fabi saying he "falls short as Tony." Collider's Perri Nemiroff remarked that Elgort's performance "just doesn't have that same spark" as that of his co-stars. Per journalist Tom Beasley, the actor "feels miscast and often looks downright lost." As Dave Gonzales cheekily puts it, "Ansel Elgort? More like Ansel Inert. Dude stands there like a mannequin body of 'Newsie's era Christian Bale with the unmoving face of 'Back to the Future'-era Billy Zane. What a black hole at the center of 'West Side Story.'"

Despite the criticisms of Elgort's performance, the critical consensus for "West Side Story" is overwhelmingly positive. We have no doubt it's destined to be another awards contender from the ever-talented Steven Spielberg, and can't wait to catch the film ourselves when it hits theaters on December 10.