Film and Documentary

Grease: Retro Movie Review


Retro Movie Review

Grease was the word when this movie came out in 1978, and the word is still alive and well today. Numerous re-releases of the movie, and 70s kids becoming first parents, and now grandparents have ensured that, by indoctrination of the each follow on generation that the movie remains an icon.

The movie itself is about the friendships, romances and adventures of a group of high school kids in the 1950s. The story, set in Southern California, involves a “greaser” named Danny (John Travolta), who has a summertime romance at the shore with an adorable Aussie named Sandy (Olivia Newton-John). When summer ends, they think they’re parting forever, only to find themselves at the same high school, when Sandy’s parents relocate to So-Cal.

Before their reunion, Danny’s T-Bird friends all expect to hear about his “action,” and Danny delivers his somewhat (greatly) embellished story to them. Sweet, naive Sandy tells her new friends another (and more honest and believable) tale of summer love, hand-holding, and chaste kisses. Then, with a little help from Rizzo (Stockard Channing), they encounter each other at the school pep rally, and the inevitable occurs. Danny’s tough-guy image makes it hard for him to acknowledge the squeaky-clean Sandy. Are they truly meant to be, or was their summer fling just that?

Casting the dancing and singing magic of Travolta, and the angelic vocals of Newton-John was pure genius. Add to that Channing’s outstanding interpretation of Rizzo, who steals almost every scene she’s in. The rest of the main cast are as follows: The T-Birds are Jeff Conaway as Kenickie, Barry Pearl as Doody, Michael Tucci as Sonny, and Kelly Ward as Putzie. The Pink Ladies are Channing, Didi Conn as Frenchie, Dinah Manoff as Marty, and Jamie Dooley as Jan.

This movie is every bit the great songfest it’s hailed as, chock full of high energy musical numbers. Add in bucket loads of innuendo, just for good measure. There’s a pregnancy scare, and a drag racing showdown. And of course, there’s a twist in the end. Oh, the trials and tribulations of high school love.

In rewatching this (for like the 100th time), I still find something I missed the previous 99 times. However, one problem I always have while watching this movie is that all the students look way too old. They’re supposed to be 16 or 17, I guess, but they look in their late 20s, and don’t seem at all comfortable as teenagers.  In spite of that, this movie does not disappoint.

In 2002, I was assigned as a journalist for a now-defunct entertainment publication to cover a re-release party of this delightful movie, and met some of the cast, but sadly, not Travolta or Newton-John. Those who did show up and participate were utterly charming, and Conaway in particular, was truly delightful, answered any and all questions, and stayed till the wee hours of the morning. I was very sad to hear of his death in 2011, from side effects of a previous, and apparently ongoing prescription drug and alcohol addiction. A very sad ending indeed.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]