January 2002
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Musical Film Review: West Side Story
By Wes Kingdon, Grade 8, St. Anne's Elementary, Peterborough, ON

‘West Side Story’ takes place in New York City, where two gangs - one of Puerto-Rican descent and one of America descent, continue to fight to gain the territory on the West side of New York. In the musical, West Side Story, there were many different characters and personal feelings of the characters developed through the method of music. The two gangs, The Jets and the Sharks fail to overcome their differences and get along. This conflict results in the death of Barnardo, the leader of the Sharks, and Tony, the leader of the Jets. The implied theme of this musical is conflict and discrimination. Throughout the duration of the film, Tony falls in love with the sister of Barnardo - Maria, and this leads to his death. He was shot when he was spotted kissing Maria by the rest of the members of the Sharks.

In my personal opinion, the moment of most importance was the very end as the exit of the characters has led me to believe that they made peace with each other. The funniest moment of the musical was the snapping of the fingers at the beginning of the film. I don’t know whether this effect was put in for humour or not but I found it hilarious.

The character of most importance to me was Tony. He was the one who tried to make peace in the group and in essence the only one who was thinking at the time. This movie fits the definition of an average musical because it contains a great count of musical compositions at high moments of drama. The music was very overbearing. In my opinion, there was too much music. The music at certain points interfered with the plot of the story and was difficult to understand such as when two gangs met at the very beginning and were singing about how they as individuals were right and the other race was wrong. In this piece of music there was a great effort put into the creation of the number. For example, the tempo changes quite dramatically and still catches the viewers attention. The beat of the music is not too driving that it loses interest. Many different instruments are used, too, and this helps to move the audience.

In my personal opinion, this movie would make an excellent hit if the same ideas were incorporated into an action film, no music or dancing. When we see gangs fight on the street, they don’t sign and dance when in action. This opinion could be based on the fact that it is the first musical I have seen in my life.

The music of this film was very effectively used in moments of high drama like when Tony and Maria are together. But not when the two gangs are in action. My overall reaction to the film would be that it would make an excellent hit if some of the music was taken out and the film was transformed either into a drama or an action film. The general plot, setting, characters and theme were an excellent choice. I look forward to seeing more musicals in the futrue.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate it as a 6.