Grease review – Travolta and Newton-John’s summer lovin’ still a blast | Grease

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‘What happened to the Danny Zuko I knew at the beach?” With this stunned and plaintive cry, Olivia Newton-John introduces the main theme and narrative dynamic of this still very enjoyable 1978 movie based on the original stage musical, which is now on rerelease.

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Newton John plays Sandy, and she’d met such a sweet boy over the summer, enjoying a more-or-less platonic beachside romance and imagining she would never see him again once she went back to Australia. But her family’s plans changed and, with the new term, Sandy shows up at the local high school and is astonished to see Danny, played by John Travolta. Compelled to be super-cool in front of his gang buddies, he is crudely dismissive of Sandy, but secretly still in love with her.

We hear the classic split-point-of-view song Summer Nights, in which Sandy regales her saucer-eyed friends with Danny’s gallantry and Danny jeeringly implies he’d had his way with her on the sand. The movie is all about male identity, peer pressure, sex in that pre-pill era and innocently imagined rock’n’roll. Grease was also about race: the title had overtones of “greaseball”. Blond Sandy is as Waspy as they come; Danny and some of his gang are regarded as outsiders partly because of their Italian American ethnicity – and the same goes for Rizzo, as tough as any boy, played by Stockard Channing.

Grease broke John Travolta through to family audiences who might have been chary about his more adult movie sensation, Saturday Night Fever, the year before. It was part of the 70s fashion for 50s nostalgia that also had its expression in George Lucas’s American Graffiti and Garry Marshall’s longrunning TV show Happy Days, and survived in the form of Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future in 1985. Travolta’s effortless dancing here is different from his lithe and narcotically sexy disco performances in Saturday Night Fever. In Grease it is more family-friendly. Still superb, less about pelvic grinding than about the quiff, elbows and the knees rotating in 45-degree shunts, as if he were appearing in an Egyptian frieze. It’s still a sugar-rush of a film.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Grease review – Travolta and Newton-John’s summer lovin’ still a blast | Grease

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