Dir: Randal Kleiser, 1978
For one of the most famous musicals of all time, it certianly has some glaring flaws.
I’m not saying it’s crap. It’s fun. But there’s some terribly cheesy bits.
Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny Zuko (John Travolta) meet on holiday and have a romance.
They meet up at school and Danny tries to get Sandy but still trying to look cool in front of his greaser friends, the T-Birds.
That’s the whole story, really. It’s very slight and simple.
If you look beneath the veneer, you’ll see many issues that the film is trying to address.
It’s about social acceptance, sex, teenage angst, working class youths, masculinity and coming to maturity.
Only the music saves the film. As a standard teenage comedy/drama it’s awful.
The dialogue is dreadful and the acting wooden but, thankfully, the songs are incredibly catchy.
Barry Gibb of The Bee Gee’s wrote the movie’s main theme song and, as is to be expected from the former band member, an absolute classic. You’ll find yourself singing it long after the film has finished.
As catchy as the songs are, it’s hard to ignore how naff is some of the lyrics. Greased Lightnin’ is a prime example of this.
The song is great. I can’t deny that. But, the lyrics are just Travolta singing about parts of a car! It reminds me of the Queen song I’m In Love With My Car.
Grease still provokes debate about its content.
Along with Star Wars and Watership Down, there are many questionable lines and scenes for its low certificate.
The MPAA rated it a ‘PG’ and the BBFC gave it an ‘A’. These ratings don’t have age restrictions and is often labelled a family film.
However, the script is littered with sexual euphemisms that raise eyebrows today.
References to masturbation, sex and, most infamously, “pussy”, girls “creaming” and “getting tit”.
Greased Lightnin’ is often censored for television showings and radio play. The line “you know it ain’t shit, we’ll be getting lots of tit” is, either omitted entirely or changed to the later lyric “you know I ain’t bragging, she’s a real pussy wagon”.
The film, successfully, captures the feel of the fifties and, brilliantly, parodies greasers.
The choreography by Patricia Birch is very impressive, and the cast take to it like a duck to water.
Brimming with high energy and enthusiasm, Grease reels you in and, before you realise it, you’re engaged in the film.
As absorbing as the movie is, parts of it do take you out of it a little bit. Annette Charles as Cha Cha clearly looks far too old for her role. She was 30 when the film was made! Dennis Stewart as Leo (Crater Face) is another one.
It’s a candy floss movie. All fluffy and sweet but, if you have too much of it, it becomes sickly.
The musical tries to add some realism to the film with it’s characters indulging in promiscuity and Rizzo’s (Stockard Channing) pregnancy scare.
In the hands of a more capable director, the elements and subplots could have been more gritty and more powerful. Kleiser goes for the light comedic touch, watering down any impact.
Although it is a light hearted musical, a touch of genuine honesty wouldn’t have hurt and given the film verisimilitude.
But, I can’t deny its appeal. Despite my criticisms, it is entertaining and the soundtrack is a must buy.
You’d be hardpressed to find anybody that didn’t enjoy it.