As the petticoats fly, the kids in GREASE engage in wild dance
gymnastics. Their high school hop is being televised, and the dancers
are participating in a national dance-off to pick the best teenage
dancers in America. 23-year-old John Travolta as greasy-haired Danny
Zuko and 29-year-old Olivia Newton-John as goodie-two-shoes Sandy Olsen
hope to be the winners of the local contest. In this parody of the 50s
made from the perspective of the late 70s, their ages present no
problem. Newton-John, especially, looks exactly like an innocent,
young high school senior.
A new print with a remastered Dolby soundtrack has been released
to the theaters to celebrate the movie's twentieth anniversary.
Although Travolta's SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, which he made the year
before, would have been more deserving of a reissue, GREASE is
nostalgic, silly fun that is well worth another run. And for those,
like this reviewer, who haven't seen the film in a long time, they may
be surprised at how raunchy the humor is. Throwing non-stop sexual
insults at each other, the kids are typical teenagers. There's even a
hilarious condom scene that happens in the backseat of a car parked at
one of those infamous lover's lanes that were so popular in the 50s and
60s. For a PG movie - they didn't have PG-13 in 1978 - the humor is
Danny, who swivels his hips like Elvis, acts the part of the tough
kid, which he isn't. His gang of pseudo-tough guys, called the
T-Birds, fights the other gang with a car race rather than fists. His
girlfriend, Sandy, dresses in virginal whites and creamy pastels. She
acts like she would wash her own mouth out with soap if she
accidentally said "darn."
Today, it seems hard to believe that neither Travolta nor
Newton-John was the first choice for the roles. In fact, Newton-John
wasn't even sure if she could act the part, so she demanded a screen
test first to see if she was credible.
In sharp contrast to Sandy is her friend Rizzo, who dress in
voluptuous, snug red outfits reminiscent of clothes found in wild west
saloons. Rizzo, played with a beautiful swagger by Stockard Channing,
provides the hard-edged contrast this cream puff of a movie needs.
When she thinks she is pregnant, her character also injects the only
The boys hang around and talk about girls who "put out." The
girls have slumber parties, where they sip pilfered booze and do
exercises in vain attempts to make their breasts larger. The funniest
scene in the picture happens at the slumber party, when one of the
girls does a great mimic of the chipmunk that did the old Ipana
toothpaste jingle - "Brusha. Brusha. Brusha. Get the new Ipana."
The most compelling reason to see the movie is none of the above.
It is the energetic and good-spirited song and dance numbers in which
the movie really comes alive. Although none of them are great, they
all go down as easily as a chocolate malt from the kids' favorite soda
GREASE runs 1:50. It is rated PG for sexual humor and situations
and for brief male nudity. Although there were girls seven and younger
in our audience, I am going to be conservative and recommend the
picture for kids around 10 and up, given the very explicit sexual humor
and situations in the movie.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes