"Grease" was released a year before I was born, so I certainly was not part of the core audience that became its fans upon its 1978 release. While musicals are my least favorite genre and always have been, I still managed to catch the picture a few years ago on cable. While there is a sense of fun, energy and joy to the picture, it still didn't capture my interest then. Now, while the film's lively nature is still apparent, what's also apparent (at least in my opinion) is that the film looks awfully dated at this point.
The film stars John Travolta as Danny, a greaser who has a romance over the Summer with Sandy, an Australian girl (Olivia Newton-John). They part at the end of the Summer, thinking that it was just a bit of fun. When the school year starts up, they find that they are at the same school. While that may have been a pleasant suprise, good girl Sandy isn't at all pleased with Danny's tough image and the other way around. Much slight drama and even more dancing ensues.
While the actors of "Grease" occasionally look more ridiculous than the twenty-somethings that portray teens in todays features (some of the supporting cast of "Grease" practically look like they're closing in on 40), many of them are genuinely able to overcome this fault thanks to energetic performances. Travolta's portrait of cool reminds why he became a star in the first place, while Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing provide solid lead performances, as well. Of course, songs such as "Summer Nights," "Greased Lightning," "Beauty School Drop-out" and, of course, "You're the One that I Want" are as much of a star as any of the cast - while all of the songs are rather cheesy, there are a few genuinely catchy numbers.
The film's technical credits are fair. While Bill Butler ("Jaws") remains one of the more highly respected cinematographers working, the film's visuals can occasionally appear rather bland. Production design and costume design are solid, while Randal Kleiser ("Blue Lagoon") provides adequate direction. In addition, the 110-minute picture seems as if it could use some trims to pick up the pace.
While I can appreciate some of the film's performances and the tone it achieves, I suppose I may be too young to appreciate the film as much as its fans do. In my opinion, it remains a charming but slight effort that's carried along (although sometimes just barely) by the light tone and performances.
VIDEO: "Grease" is once again presented here in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount. However, the presentation here is an improvement upon the previous effort. Sharpness and detail appear mildly better here - although the presentation's a little soft at times, it generally appears crisp and clear.
The presentation does show some slight edge enhancement at times, but otherwise, the presentation looked crisp and clear. This presentation looked cleaner than the prior one, as while the prior presentation showed some dirt at times, this one looked clean and clear. Colors looked natural and accurately presented, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Grease" is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1. The soundtrack provided a decently enjoyable affair, showing off the songs fairly well, but leaving the remainder of the soundtrack to largely sound its age. The majority of this soundtrack is still mono, but when the music comes in, the soundtrack perks up and opens up a fair amount. Surrounds are still really not put to much use, but do get a bit of work reinforcing the music.
EXTRAS: Director Randall Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch offer up a new audio commentary for this DVD. It's a little odd that the case doesn't note the fact that there's a new commentary, but it's a good one, as the two really cover all the bases on the film. The track has a minimal amount of silence as the two do a good job at pointing out some fun details and stories behind certain scenes and talk about other issues, such as locations, script changes, choreography, casting and characters. Fans of the track should find it a good time.
Also included here are 11 Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes, an optional intro from director Randall Kleiser, "The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease" documentary, karaoke sing-along feature, "Grease DVD Launch Party" (footage from the release party of the original DVD edition), "Grease Memories From John and Olivia" (short interviews), "The Moves Behind the Music" featurette, John Travolta and Allan Carr interviews from "Grease Day", "Thunder Roadsters" featurette, Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood "Grease Day" interviews, trailer, photo galleries and previews for other titles from the studio.
Finally, the DVD comes in its own little leather jacket. It may be a little awkward on the shelf, but it's a nice touch.
Final Thoughts: "Grease" gets a very nice update with this "Rockin' Rydell" edition, which offers improved video quality and a nice new set of supplements that fans will enjoy. Recommended.
The Film B+