By Dave McCoy
Riding the strange '50s nostalgia wave that swept through America
during the late Super70s (caused by TV shows like Happy
Days and films like American
Graffiti), Grease became not only the word in 1978, but
also a box-office smash and a cultural phenomenon. In the 2002 DVD
release, Grease lovers can also now see it in the correct 2:35 to 1
Panavision aspect ratio, and see retrospective interviews with cast
members and director Randal Kleiser. All these stylistic touches are
essential to the film's success. Without the vibrant colors, unforgettably
campy and catchy tunes (like "Greased Lightning," "Summer
Nights," and "You're the One That I Want"), and fabulously
choreographed, widescreen musical numbers, the film would have to rely on
a silly, cliché-filled plot that we've seen hundreds of times.
As it is, the episodic story about the romantic dilemmas experienced by
a group of graduating high school seniors remains fresh, fun, and
incredibly imaginative.As it is, the episodic story about the romantic
dilemmas experienced by a group of graduating high school seniors remains
fresh, fun, and incredibly imaginative. The young, animated cast also
deserves a lot of credit, bringing chemistry and energy to otherwise bland
material. John Travolta, straight from his success in Saturday
Night Fever, knows his sexual star power and struts, swaggers,
sings, and dances appropriately; while Olivia Newton-John's portrayal of
virgin innocence is the only decent acting she's ever done. And then
there's Stockard Channing, spouting sexual double-entendres as Rizzo, the
bitchy, raunchy leader of the Pink Ladies, who steals the film from both
of its stars. While this version contains retrospective interviews with
the cast and director Randal Kleiser, it's unfortunately not letterboxed.
As a result, the widescreen dance numbers are instead panned and scanned,
destroying the symmetrical, lively choreography. A widescreen version is
also available and is highly recommended. Ignore the sequel at all costs.
Grease received an Academy
Award for Best Song (John Farrar).