Grease (1978), or Good, But Not ELECTRIFYIN’!

28 05 2009

In the annals of Broadway musicals turned into musical films, one movie stands head, shoulders, and poodle skirt above the rest. Yes, Grease is a legendary musical film that even snags in people that have never seen the movie (we’ve all heard at least one song; don’t be so macho!) It’s sold millions of records, memorabilia, tapes, CDs, DVDs, and Halloween costumes throughout its nearly 30 years of existence, and its accomplishments are certainly impressive. But is it really that good? Is it really that good for you? Well, it really depends on your taste. If you’re a big fan of musicals, it doesn’t matter what I say, because you already own the movie, the album, and the pair of panties Olivia Newton-John wore on set during the “Summer Nights” sequence. But if you can be objective, bear with me for a second.

Now, earlier in the week, I took a little movie from the video store called Repo! The Genetic Opera. It was a kitschy affair, but what really should have mattered was the music, which I had forgotten (!!!) by the time I was ready to write the review, so it received poor marks from me. Grease, with music written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, does not really have that problem. Well, unless the music is written by the Bee Gees. Yes, this was 1978, so by martial decree, the opening theme had to be made by the biggest band in the world (for a year and a half). The songs, other than that stinker of an opening song, are catchy, and they are pretty good all in all. The highlights are, of course, “Summer Nights”, “Greased Lightning”, and “You’re The One That I Want”. Other surprisingly fun tracks are “Beauty School Dropout” and “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee”. I had a lot of fun with the last two, because they were sung by the unsung heroes of the film, Rizzo and Frenchy. If you haven’t seen the film, watch it just for these delightful characters who have more interesting things to say than the main characters themselves.

Which brings me to my main and really only gripe with the film. The two leads turn me off in the most drastic way. Olivia Newton-John is Sandra Dee, the Australian foreign exchange student, who grates on me like a meat grinder. She preens like a peacock and struts around like she is the greatest thing since Sliced Bread: The Musical. It really nags on me, especially since most of the girls in Rydell High turn me on more than Olivia Newton-John. And, of course, where John Travolta goes, mediocrity soon follows. Here, as rebel greaser Danny Zuko, he sings like his penis is on fire, a giddy mix of horror and delight. During “Greased Lightning”, I think he has an orgasm on the car, but I can’t be sure. It’s off-putting in the most literal sense, in that I had to turn the movie off a couple of times to get away from Travolta’s mug.

The supporting cast is good though. Jeff Conaway, before he was a drug-addled mess, was actually pretty good as Kenickie, Zuko’s friend. He brings a verve to the proceedings that would be sorely missed without him. Didi Conn, who plays Rizzo, is my favorite character, though. She has a lot of spirit, and a lot of personality. All her songs, and all her little snippets of dialog are gold, and I am still lobbying in Hollywood for a movie based just on her character. Look out of 2010, when Rizzo: Beauty School Dropout hits theaters.

So some memorable characters, some memorable songs marred by an obnoxious leading couple still makes for a decent movie, in my book. Don’t buy into the hype that it’s the greatest musical of all time. You’ll only find yourself disappointed. It’s a fun time, worth the rental, maybe even the purchase, but don’t go in thinking that it’ll be amazing, because you’ll only be disappointed. I give Grease 7 Sliced Bread: The Musicals out of 10.

Stay tuned tonight for my thoughts on Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal!!!