Grease

1978, Movie, PG, 110 mins

Review

GREASE
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If you're looking for good, clean, high-spirited fun, GREASE is the ticket. Steve Krantz, who now spends most of his time producing the works of his wife, Judith, originally had the rights for this film and intended to do it as a cartoon (he'd once been partners with Ralph Bakshi). When he could find no one to agree with his concept (a wise choice on the part of the studios), he let the project go, and it was picked up by Carr, who made a deal with Stigwood. The die was cast, and the Broadway play is probably still running somewhere. The movie is a fine rendition of the play and reaped huge rewards at the box office, perhaps the highest grosses accorded any film musical. The story takes place in the 1950s, which have become a nostalgic period. Travolta and Newton-John make a great impression as two kids who attend Rydell High. The story is a look at the trials and tribulations of young love; the plot turns are not really important. There are the usual misunderstandings, the satire of the teachers, a car race between rivals, and several production numbers. Travolta is one of those cool dudes who must stay aloof from the travails of his contemporaries. Newton-John loves him dearly and wants their summer romance to continue once they go to school together. Everyone in the picture had been out of high school for 5-10 years when the the movie was made, but disbelief was suspended in favor of fantasy. Lots of attention was paid to details, and it shows in every frame. The clothes, the manner of speech, the hair styles, the musical arrangements were all on the nose--to the point of caricature. There are several extended "cameos" by various stars; Arden reprises her "Our Miss Brooks" role, but this time she is a principal. Caesar is a fine coach; and even ageless Blondell comes on for a fast, funny bit. Many people made their first appearances in GREASE. It was Kleiser's premier screen-directing effort. He had already done a good job directing Travolta in a TV film called "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," the true story of a young man with a rare disease who could not leave the bubble he lived in or he would die. (Travolta fell in love with the woman who played his mother, Diana Hyland, and they stayed together until her early death of cancer while she was still in her thirties.) Channing had already appeared in THE FORTUNE, in which she was dwarfed by her costars. In GREASE she was able to step up and stand out. Conn, who starred in the mawkish YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE, proves that she is a one-note actress with a whiny voice. (She married screen composer David Shire, former husband of Talia Shire, sister of Francis Ford Coppola.) Byrnes, who was a heartbreaker in the 1950s, makes a small appearance. He is good and should be doing more. Travolta was never better, and his film career went straight downhill from here as he starred in a host of garbage pictures that made very little money. Composer Charles Fox ("Happy Days", many TV shows, and a host of movies, including FOUL PLAY) was supposed to do the score for the film, but he and producer Carr didn't see eye to eye, so Louis St. Louis was brought in, and his barely credited contribution was excellent. Newton-John is adorably virginal, and just about all the secondary parts are well cast. This is a first-rate spoof of a fifth-rate genre (BEACH PARTY, BEACH BLANKET BINGO, DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK, etc.); you just can't hate anything this energetic and happy. Songs include "Grease," "Summer Nights," Best Song Oscar nominee "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "You're the One That I Want," "Sandy," "Beauty-School Dropout," "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," "Greased Lightnin'," "It's Raining on Prom Night," "Alone at a Drive-In Movie," "Blue Moon," "Rock 'n' Roll Is Here to Stay," "Those Magic Changes," "Hound Dog," "Born to Hand-Jive," "Tears on My Pillow," "Mooning," "Freddy My Love," "Rock 'n' Roll Party Queen," "There Are Worse Things I Could Do," "We Go Together," "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing." leave a comment

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