Grease (1978)
Directed by Randal Kleiser

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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One summer during the 1950s, two teenagers, Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), meet at the beach and enjoy a brief romance. When school begins, this pair, who had thought they would never see one another again, are surprised to learn that they are attending the same school. Sandy is, however, so repulsed by the obnoxious manner in which Danny behaves while he is surrounded by his friends that he must subsequently work to regain her love.

Randal Kleiser's musical Grease is a fun but largely uninspired movie. It is, however, so vibrant and so bursting with nostalgia that it is sure to appeal to many persons.


The film's best moments are, without a doubt, its musical numbers, which are almost all absolutely delightful and intoxicatingly energetic. Not only are these routines well performed vocally, but they are also skillfully choreographed and often set against charmingly stylized backdrops. Whatever the viewer may think of the story the director is telling, he is sure to enjoy its songs so much that he will find the whole movie well worth watching.


Sadly, Grease's narrative is entirely forgettable, being so fast paced and slight that it often seems to exist only to provide excuses for the songs with which it is punctuated, and most of its protagonists would be gratingly unlikable if they were not so overdone. The male characters are, for the most part, oafish bullies and several of the female characters are conniving, spiteful vixens. Fortunately, these individuals are so exaggerated that their unpleasantness gets lost in their cartoonishness. They may never arouse the viewer's sympathy, but, being caricatures, they are unlikely to arouse his enmity either. In fact, whether they are swaggering about in their leather jackets, combing their slick, greasy hair, assaulting various persons in fits of anger, or verbally sparring with one another, they are usually amusing.


What is more, with its celebrations of the unique styles of the 1950s, as these are filtered through the sentimental gaze of film makers who were actually living in the 1970s, I have no doubt that the movie will appeal to those nostalgic for the 1950s, those nostalgic for the 1970s, and those nostalgic for the nostalgia for the 1950s current in the 1970s.


While I cannot honestly praise Grease for much besides its musical numbers, these are wonderfully entertaining. The film may not be memorable, but, thanks to such routines, it is fun to see.

Review by Keith Allen

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