Grease (1978)


Frankly I’m very annoyed at the latest promotions to push “Grease” as the original “High School Musical.” While it is true in a sense that this was a hit movie musical about high school students, “Grease” is a wonderful musical masterpiece with amazing dance and singing numbers, catchy tunes, and a story that’s pretty trite but otherwise simple enough to sit and enjoy for its lightweight emotional fodder while Disney’s high profile movie was just a fad for tweens between naps at grade school. “Grease” is one of the last of its kind, a musical that continues to be relevant and masterfully splices in its numbers in to its narrative with smooth precision to where it flows naturally within the scope of the characters and conveys their sadness and joy.

Even the best modern musicals can’t fit the musical interludes too well but “Grease” has no trouble with it because every song is a reflection of our characters emotions. Set in a sixties high school at the beginning of the new school year, Brit Sandy has just come in to town to attend Rydell High. Little does she know her summer fling Danny is a student at the same school and the lover she knew over the season is a hardened gang member of the T-Birds more concerned with his duties to his pals and his appearance than remaining loyal to her and their romance. Danny isn’t just scared of being mocked by his pals, he’s scared of the intense passion he has for Sandy. The movie splits its narrative in all sorts of directions chronicling the lives of Pinky and Rizzo and Kenickie, all of whom are coming of age and facing difficult times in their lives, more so than Danny and Sandy. With a fast pacing and charming energy to it, “Grease” is a masterpiece of musical cinema, a high impulse romp that recollects a time of simple pop music that is used as a key to mirror what our characters are feeling toward one another.

“Grease” hasn’t aged a bit and is that one movie that simply can not be remade in spite of the fact that it’s been copied for literally years even suffering a painfully mediocre and unnecessary sequel. “Grease” has some of the most incredible numbers of all time from the intense “Hand Jive” number where out entire cast is in full force dancing and battling one another and facing off in the heat of the moment, and of course “Greased Lightning,” one in a variety of songs that spotlight the insane appeal of John Travolta, a man who was a pure force of nature in his decade.

While historians have claimed that the off-Broadway play was originally very raunchy, director Randal Kleiser manages to sneak in as many double entendres and innuendos as humanly possible making it enjoyable both for adults and children alike. When I was a kid we’d see this movie about three times a day every day for months and memorized all of the dance moves and lyrics. The ensemble cast is magnificent with folks like Stockard Channing and Jeff Conway bringing up the rear as the direct opposite to Sandy and Danny, two people with stained pasts who are drawn to one another in the middle of the high school chaos.

Songs like “Summer Nights” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” reach down and touch on to the most raw of teenage emotions where two people are painfully torn between their obligations to their friends and their love to one another. Incredible choreography matched with brilliant editing and a rousing electricity make this lightning in a bottle that has never been captured again, and is all topped off with an amazing final number between Travolta and Newton-John who finally give in to their emotions through a carnival funhouse that symbolizes their journey chasing one another inside and come out hand in hand with their friends and school mates welcoming their love without judgment.

Anyone who is anyone has to see “Grease” and can’t deny its charms and endearing story that make it a bonafide classic.With the musical genre losing its relevance in modern film, “Grease” is one of the last in a golden decade of an innocent time where musicals were cinematic operas invoking human emotions, pain, joy, and excitement and “Grease” is a film that’s immortal for its unbridled enthusiasm and top notch production that makes it arguably the best musical ever made.