VOD film review: Grease
Ivan Radford | On 17, Jun 2021
Director: Randal Kleiser
Cast: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing
Where to watch Grease online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
“Summer lovin’, happened so fast…” If you’re already singing the next line in that song, then Grease needs no introduction. If you’re not, Grease still doesn’t need an introduction – the film is burned into our collective cultural consciousness, thanks to its mix of catchy tunes, winning cast and a story about a woman changing her entire personality to win over a guy. Despite all its dated qualities, though – or perhaps even because of them – Grease remains a timeless piece of musical entertainment.
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are on iconic form as motorhead Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Olsson, who meet and fall in love over a wistful, innocent summer. But when she transfers to his high school and they bump into each other, their budding romance doesn’t spark to life, thanks to a toxic combination of peer pressure and social expectations. In that sense, this 1970s relic – set in the even more dated 1950s – is a deceptively timely watch, raising questions about Danny’s attempts to play it cool and aloof in front of his macho male friends and Sandy’s ultimate decision to go “bad” to win over her dream guy. If our leading couple actually serve as a lesson in how not to make good life decisions, there are further bad examples to be found in the way that all of the men treat the women – the lyrics of Summer Lovin’ set the tone from the off – not to mention the copious smoking.
And yet the whole thing remains a wonderfully feel-good affair, in no small part thanks to the electrifying chemistry between Travolta and Newton-John. Travolta is something else, balancing physical comedy and emotional honesty with swaggering bravado and serious singing chops. Newton-John, meanwhile, manages the tricky job of being pious and innocent without seeming foolish, genuinely selling the attraction between Sandy and Danny. It helps that they’re surrounding by an excellent cast – from Jeff Conaway’s Kenickie, capable of going from arrogant and brash to surprisingly vulnerable, to Didi Conn’s endearingly kind-hearted Frenchie. The show is almost stolen by Stockard Channing as Rizzo, one of the most complex characters in the ensemble, who essays us on stereotypes and how judgemental others can be, while also maintaining her independence amid a poignant subplot.
The original musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey give them all a near-non-stop string of bangers to enjoy (although Hopelessly Devoted to You remains a skippable low-point) and director Randal Kleiser (Honey, I Blew Up the Kid) breezes through the showstopping medley with smarts and style – a tracking shot in There Are Worse Things I Could Do seamlessly translates the musical’s staging to the screen, while the high school dance contest cuts between the kids out on the floor and the cameras capturing them on TV with energy and wit. And, amid it all, what today would be a knowing, self-aware send-up of the 1950s is delivered here with total sincerity. It’s a cheesy classic, but it comes with burgers, fries and a milkshake on the side. All that and an opening number from Barry Gibb? What’s not to love?
Grease is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.