Zoot Suit Reviews

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Lord Naseby
Super Reviewer
April 6, 2011
I'm only the 5th guy to write a review on this film so if you haven't heard of it, that's okay.



I watched this film for my Theater in Film class. I had never heard of the play or movie before but apparently this one was Edward James Olmos' breakout role. If he wasn't in here he wouldn't have been in Blade Runner so that's a plus.

Acting/characters: Meh, it wasn't anything particularly amazing. The characters were just entertaining at first, but one by one, they started to get steadily more annoying. even Olmos whose character was really interesting to watch and really enjoyable at first had lost his draw by the end of the film. It started decent, but it just got weak by the end. 4.5/10

Plot: It is mostly based off of a true story revolving around the real Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial and the 1940s Zoot Suit Riots. I don't know enough about the two incidents so I can't say if the movie did them justice. However, like the characters, it started off really interesting and I wondered what was going to happen next, but I just ceased to care by the end. 4/10

Screenplay: The lines were very similar I thought. I had trouble caring about what they were saying. If you asked me to quote a line from the movie I couldn't do it. I wouldn't really care in any case. 3.5/10

Likableness: If oyu really feel you must see this you could do worse. But otherwise, give this one a pass. there's nothing really great about it except maybe Olmos. He was interesting the longest. I don't know how good the play is, and it may be much better than this one. Some plays just don't transfer well to film. If I had to guess, this is one of them. It was alright for a while, but it just got boring. 4.5/10

Final Score: 16.5/40 41% (M)

Trivia Time: 1. The character of Henry Reyna was based upon the real-life zoot-suiter Henry "Hank" Leyvas, who was tried and wrongfully convicted for first-degree murder of Jose Diaz, after an incident on 1 August 1942. The film and the play that preceded it conformed to the facts of the actual case. The appeals court overturned the earlier verdict and Reyna and his friends were set free in 1945, following the Zoot Suit Riots and the banning of zoot suits in Los Angeles (courtesy of the Los Angeles City Council) in 1944. Many futures and outcomes for Reyna were given in the film and the play. In real life, Leyvas was convicted some years later for selling drugs. He served ten years and was released, and soon opened a family restaurant. He died of a heart attack in 1971.

2. The Broadway production of "Zoot Suit" opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York on March 25, 1979 and ran for 41 performances. Charles Aidman, Mike Gomez, Abel Franco, Darlene Bryan, Luis Manuel, Edward James Olmos, Tony Plana, Rose Portillo, Geno Silva, Dennis Stewart, and Socorro Valdez recreated their stage roles in this filmed production. Edward James Olmos was nominated for the 1979 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Drama for "Zoot Suit" as El Pachuco and recreated his stage role in this filmed production.
iLeo
Super Reviewer
April 9, 2009
An interesting movie.
½ May 10, 2011
for a movie about the 40s, this had a very strong early 80s flavor to it. go figure.. I think this is a story that works much better as a play. a self-aware play a la epic theatre is much more interesting than a play within a movie, which for an audience is almost too isolating. stylistically, though, it's nice to look at. bold colors, some cool song & dance interludes, and just an overall unique presentation. Edward James Olmos plays a terrific El Pachuco, as well. Daniel Valdez is a little flat, but Olmos carries him nicely. not at all outstanding, but it's moderately entertaining
½ August 4, 2009
a play of the history of the zoot suitor based on a true story is one classic anyone who is interested in chicano history this is a must see
May 15, 2008
This is certainly an interesting movie. Get ready for a weird trip.
The story deals with a lot of racial issues (Mexican) of the 1940's... social, legal, cultural, etc. I liked the Zoot Suit guy, as he always kinda represented this "badass" Mexican inside the main character. -and Zoot Suits are really crazy looking.
½ August 13, 2014
A memorable hero, an intriguing god-like character depicted by Edward James Olmos, and a great soundtrack, all come together to remind us the possition of mexican-americans in the U.S. society of the 1940īs.
August 24, 2012
musical tale of Mexican life in the 40's, in America, Edward James Olmos, need I say more
½ December 10, 2011
One thing is for certain, the music is excellent. The plot is pretty strong but so many things work against it, like the completely absurd performance for 'El Pachuco', the bland lighting and photography, and the off-putting set design. The whole "film a play" direction was a terrible way to go, as it ruined the illusion and made the characters seem paper thin.
December 9, 2011
Pretty much awful all around. The style is great. I loved having everything set on a stage and using it like film. Aside from that, we have a narrator who might be over the top to be funny, or he might have actually thought it was a good idea to put on a dramatic performance like that. Either way, it didn't work. I wasn't laughing with him and I wasn't compelled by him. I laughed when he came on and I wanted him to go away immediately. Daniel Valdez puts on one of the most dead performances I have ever seen. He doesn't live the character Henry Reyna. Instead, he waits for the beats and makes the faces Valdez told him to. It's hard to care about a character that doesn't ever feel real. Then the film ventures off into some romantic tangent with an underage girl and it feels even less real. It loses focus. If you want to watch a movie about the zoot suit era and the struggles of hispanics during the 40s, maybe watch this. I don't know, maybe there aren't any better films about the subject. But if you want to watch a film that is set on a stage and also keeps real characters and captures the theatrical feel, watch All That Jazz. That is all.
Lord Naseby
Super Reviewer
April 6, 2011
I'm only the 5th guy to write a review on this film so if you haven't heard of it, that's okay.



I watched this film for my Theater in Film class. I had never heard of the play or movie before but apparently this one was Edward James Olmos' breakout role. If he wasn't in here he wouldn't have been in Blade Runner so that's a plus.

Acting/characters: Meh, it wasn't anything particularly amazing. The characters were just entertaining at first, but one by one, they started to get steadily more annoying. even Olmos whose character was really interesting to watch and really enjoyable at first had lost his draw by the end of the film. It started decent, but it just got weak by the end. 4.5/10

Plot: It is mostly based off of a true story revolving around the real Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial and the 1940s Zoot Suit Riots. I don't know enough about the two incidents so I can't say if the movie did them justice. However, like the characters, it started off really interesting and I wondered what was going to happen next, but I just ceased to care by the end. 4/10

Screenplay: The lines were very similar I thought. I had trouble caring about what they were saying. If you asked me to quote a line from the movie I couldn't do it. I wouldn't really care in any case. 3.5/10

Likableness: If oyu really feel you must see this you could do worse. But otherwise, give this one a pass. there's nothing really great about it except maybe Olmos. He was interesting the longest. I don't know how good the play is, and it may be much better than this one. Some plays just don't transfer well to film. If I had to guess, this is one of them. It was alright for a while, but it just got boring. 4.5/10

Final Score: 16.5/40 41% (M)

Trivia Time: 1. The character of Henry Reyna was based upon the real-life zoot-suiter Henry "Hank" Leyvas, who was tried and wrongfully convicted for first-degree murder of Jose Diaz, after an incident on 1 August 1942. The film and the play that preceded it conformed to the facts of the actual case. The appeals court overturned the earlier verdict and Reyna and his friends were set free in 1945, following the Zoot Suit Riots and the banning of zoot suits in Los Angeles (courtesy of the Los Angeles City Council) in 1944. Many futures and outcomes for Reyna were given in the film and the play. In real life, Leyvas was convicted some years later for selling drugs. He served ten years and was released, and soon opened a family restaurant. He died of a heart attack in 1971.

2. The Broadway production of "Zoot Suit" opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York on March 25, 1979 and ran for 41 performances. Charles Aidman, Mike Gomez, Abel Franco, Darlene Bryan, Luis Manuel, Edward James Olmos, Tony Plana, Rose Portillo, Geno Silva, Dennis Stewart, and Socorro Valdez recreated their stage roles in this filmed production. Edward James Olmos was nominated for the 1979 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Drama for "Zoot Suit" as El Pachuco and recreated his stage role in this filmed production.
October 30, 2010
this movie influenced a generation of cholos
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