Musicals can be difficult to review, especially when you don’t have the music aspect to assist the review. So with that in mind, I wrote this just after watching the movie and I listened to the Grease soundtrack every time I came to the keyboard. So I really immersed myself into the music side since I couldn’t bring that to you! You’re welcome.
Our movie begins on a beach where Danny and Sandy have met during summer break, and have a whirlwind teenage romance. It comes to an abrupt end when Sandy and her family have to go to Australia, so they think they’ll never see one another again. Danny tells her “It’s not the end, but only the beginning.”
The next school year begins at Rydell High School and Danny Zucco is back to his bad boy ways as the leader of the T-Birds, a greaser gang rounded out by his best friend Kenickie and also Doody, Sonny and Putzie. They all meet up and begin their mayhem as seniors. Coming in from the parking lot is Sandy, along with her new friend Frenchy, who’s a member of the Pink Ladies, and has taken Sandy under her proverbial wing.
It’s Sandy’s first day at Rydell; she’s a senior and nervous being around unfamiliar surroundings and cliques. Frenchy’s Pink Ladies group consists of Rizzo, Jan and Marty. The Pink Ladies and the T-Birds are fairly close knit; Kenickie and Rizzo are an item, Sonny pursues Marty and Putzie and Jan flirt back and forth.
Rydell is headed by Principal McFee who tries her best to maintain some semblance of order in the chaos that is High School. Her office secretary/assistant makes this a daily struggle, since Blanche is, to put it mildly, a flake and a bit of a space cadet. Sandy meets both of them upon reporting to the office to get her class schedule. We get a look at what high school looked like in the late 1950’s as the bell rings and nerds are tripped and tagged with “kick me” signs by greasers; cheerleaders and jocks stick together and ignore everything going on around them. Honestly, apart from the kick me sign, its not that different from when I was in high school; and I graduated in 1995.
After everyone is settled in, Principal McFee makes her morning announcements over the PA system. Wishing her students a prosperous year and letting them know about the school bonfire that night, and tryouts for the pep squad stating, “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter!” Also Rydell has been chosen to represent the modern, wholesome youth of America by being showcased on the American National Dance-Off, which was to be televised live and hosted by Vince Fontaine.
At lunch, Frenchy introduces Sandy to the rest of the Pink Ladies, meanwhile Danny is questioned about where he was, what he did and was there any action? Danny goes into detail of his summer at the beach with some colorful exaggerations peppered in. The Pink Ladies ask Sandy what she did over the summer and she begins to describe the cute boy she met at the beach. How he was so sweet and caring, holding her hand while they watched the sunsets.
They continue separately, never revealing their counterparts name as they describe their “Summer Nights”. It is only after she’s asked if her perfect guy has a name that she reveals his name is Danny Zuko. The Ladies, save Rizzo, laugh and try to mask their tittering. Rizzo gives Sandy a little dig by telling her “Well, maybe if you wish hard enough, you just might see your Prince Charming again”.
Sandy’s joined the pep squad and is doing a poor job at it. Danny is off not paying attention to anything particular and the trio of T-Birds do a funny little Three Stooges Routine. Kenickie pulls up in a beat up car, telling the guys he intends to fix it up and race it at Thunder Road. When Sandy is done with her pepping, Rizzo tells her they’ve got a surprise for her. She walks her over and pushes Sandy in front of a group of tough looking, leather jacketed bad boy greasers. Sandy’s eyes light up when she looks directly at one of them and yells “Danny is that you?”
He’s glad and excited to see her, losing his tough guy façade, “What are.. How’d you get here? I thought you were headed back to Australia.” “We had a change of plans”. Kenickie walks up beside him and Danny takes a couple steps back, and puts the façade back up-“Hey baby that’s cool. You know me, rock n and a rollin.” Sandy is stunned and asks him what happened to the Danny Zuko she met at the beach and he sarcastically tells her “I do not know. Maybe you should take out a wanted poster.” When Sandy runs off crying, Frenchy isn’t far behind, leaving Rizzo standing there with an evil grin as she stares down a forlorn looking Danny.
Frenchy calms Sandy down, and invites her to a sleepover that she’s having at her house with the other Pink Ladies. Sandy doesn’t smoke, drink or even have her ears pierced. Rizzo takes the opportunity to pressure her into trying all three. With Sandy in the bathroom being sick from the sight of her own blood, Rizzo makes fun of her purity and compares her to Sandra Dee. Sandy hears some of this, asks, “Are you making fun of me Rizzo?” Yes Sandy, she was. And everyone was in on the joke except you.
The T-Birds pull up outside and Rizzo shimmies down the trellis to leave with Kenickie, but when the others don’t go she asks, “What do you think this is, some kind of gang bang?” Kenickie kicks them all out and peels out, arm around his girl. Sandy knows Danny is down there and agonizes as to how she feels about him, even after he spurned her earlier. She decides that she is “Hopelessly In Love” with him.
Kenickie brings his POS car into shop class to fix it up, but they can’t see how it can be done. Danny explains that the car could be more than great; it could be “Greased Lightning!” The T-Birds are inspired and excited to get to work.
Danny runs into Sandy, who is with a football jock, and tries to apologize to her regarding his earlier behavior. She completely blows him off and he decides he’ll do whatever he must to win her back. He goes to Coach Calhoon to try to change for Sandy. Danny tries basketball, wrestling and baseball, but each time his temper gets the better of him.
Coach suggests a no-contact sport: Running. Danny scoffs at first, decides it’s worth a try when Coach says “Not just running. Long distance running, marathon running, you know something that takes endurance and stamina.” As he’s running laps he sees Sandy with some of the jocks and you can see the determination on his face as he sprints past, leaving them all with puzzled looks. He starts jumping hurdles and falls flat after 3 or 4. Sandy runs to his aid and they make up, he takes this opportunity to ask her to the Dance Off.
Danny takes Sandy on a date to the local hangout and the whole gangs there. Rizzo and Kenickie are fighting and break up. Frenchy has dropped out of high school and has been going to cosmetology school but she’s dropped out of that too. She had a hard time with everything and has tinted her hair PINK! She wishes for a guardian angel to appear, one does; telling the “Beauty School Dropout” to go back to high school!
Dance off time! Marty and Rizzo show up with Leo (the leader of the Scorpions) a rival greaser gang. Kenickie with Cha Cha, Leo’s former flame and the two guys come close to throwing punches. Jan is with Putzie; Frenchy with Doody and Sonny is left pining over Marty who’s now flirting with TV host Vince Fontain. When Danny and Sandy show up and meet up with the group, he’s obviously uncomfortable about being around Cha Cha. Principle McFee and Coach Calhoon lay out the ground rules for the Dance Off: if tapped on the shoulder leave the dance floor, couples must be boy girl, and that any inappropriate or lewd behavior won’t be tolerated.
Johnny Casino and the Gambles gets the crowd warmed up before the cameras come on. But when Fontain does the fast talking emcee intro, the cameras are on and the kids go crazy. As one would expect, they start mugging for the camera, paying more attention to it than dancing. It takes only a few moments during “Hand Jive” and the bleachers are nearly full. Finally it’s down to the last couple, Danny and Sandy. For whatever reason Sonny grabs Sandy and Cha Cha takes her place, and the duo wins the contest. They now have a spotlight dance to “Blue Moon”. It’s at this time that Doody, Putzie and Sonny moon the camera! The next day McFee announces that the pictures of the mooners have been sent off to Washington for identification.
At the drive in Danny wards off Sandy’s questions regarding his and Cha Cha’s past relationship. He decides to give his ring to her as a sign of his loyalty to her, but she thinks it means he respects her. Danny’s a horny teen and is looking for any way to get into her knickers! He tries to make a move on her and she slams the door shut hitting him in the crotch and throws his rings back at him. He’s left lamenting over “Sandy” and being “Stranded at the Drive In”
Rizzo tells Marty that she’s skipped a period and might be pregnant; to which Marty swears she won’t tell anyone. While leaving the restroom, Marty announces “Comin thru, comin thru lady with a baby!” Sonny overhears this and asks Marty what’s going on and she whispers in his ear. He tells the first car he comes to, they all lean out and tell the car next to them and so on as Rizzo is slowly walking behind them. News goes from car to car until finally reaching Kenickie. He wants to take care of his mistake, but she tells him its someone else’s mistake.
Kenickie’s car is all fixed up and ready to race on Thunder Road against the Scorpions. Sandy’s decided to go and try to talk to Danny, but Rizzo tells her that unless she has 4 wheels and an engine that he won’t notice her. Everyone gets to Thunder Road, which is nothing more than a large drainage ditch. They have to drive past the second bridge and back besides that there are no rules. Kenickie is given a penny for luck, but he drops it.
He bends down to get it and is hit on the head and knocked out by Putzie when he opens the driver side door and didn’t see Kenickie. He doesn’t want to forfeit, even though he’s seeing double, so he asks Danny to drive in his place. As they take off, the cars seem to be evenly matched then Leo starts tearing up Lightning with a tire spike.
Danny pulls away and they both make it around the second bridge and speed back up to get to the finish line. Leo forces Danny up onto the dam wall, which gives Danny the advantage. They both come back onto a straight away and Danny gets past Leo by going over a small ramp, jumping over a large pool of water, leaving Leo stalled and stranded. Lightning has some bumps and bruises but Danny has won, and since they were racing for pink slips it means Danny’s just won Leo’s car! Sandy has had a bird’s eye view of the race and afterwards Frenchy runs up to her asking if she’s happy. “No, not really but I think I how I could be, can you help me Frenchy?”
It’s the last day of school and the senior class of Rydell is all geared up for the carnival awaiting them. The T-Bird trio has flunked P.E and Coach tells them they can graduate as soon as they pass, in summer school. Kenickie sees Rizzo on a Ferris Wheel and yells at her to get off cause she “has a condition.” Turns out it was a false alarm and she’s not pregnant. They make up. Through the crowd Danny comes strutting through, wearing a Letterman’s sweater.
The guys are beside themselves, Danny Zuko, turned jock. He tells them that Sandy means a lot to him and he’d do anything to win her back so while they were stealing hubcaps, he lettered in track. Whistling and catcalls get the attention of the group. Sandy shocks everyone when she arrives with a new hairstyle and wearing a revealing black outfit and leather jacket. Letting him know without a doubt “You’re The One That I Want” Jan worries that after graduation, the gang won’t see each other again, but Danny disagrees. They celebrate their friendship and Danny and Sandy depart in a red hot rod, which takes flight as they wave goodbye to their friends.
So that was a trip down memory lane, wasn’t it? In my opinion, Grease is what high school would’ve been like if we lived in a Disney movie. Beautiful girl meets her Prince Charming and fate allows them to instantly fall in love. They frolic and sing about anything and everything only to be torn apart by forces beyond their control…*Sigh*
Reality, in contrast, is a cruel mistress, love at first sight is rare, and if you saw someone singing about, well anything for no apparent reason, they’d most likely be relocated to a padded cell! So actors & actresses perform in musicals to do and say what we REALLY want to.
Grease is celebrating 40 years this month and it still holds up. High School problems, at their core, haven’t changed, just the staff and the technology; Textbooks to laptops, and calculators to cell phones. Kids are still faced with peer pressure, bullying, teen pregnancy & sex and the cliques are pretty much the same, minus the pomade!
Grease is STILL popular after 40 years and is celebrated in the form of school plays and school choirs still sing melodies of its greatest hits. For this reviewer, “Grease is the word”, and always will be.
Grease came to theaters on June 16, 1978
Cast: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn, Frankie Avalon
Grease Official Synopsis:
Experience the friendships, romances and adventures of a group of high school kids in the 1950s. Welcome to the singing and dancing world of “Grease,” the most successful movie musical of all time. A wholesome exchange student (Olivia Newton-John) and a leather-clad Danny (John Travolta) have a summer romance, but will it cross clique lines?
Categories: Movie Anniversaries