Riding the strange '50s nostalgia wave that swept through America during the late 1970s (caused by TV shows like Happy Days and films like American Graffiti), Grease became not only the word in 1978, but also a box-office smash and a cultural phenomenon. Twenty years later, this entertaining film adaptation of the Broadway musical received another successful theatrical release, which included visual remastering and a shiny new Dolby soundtrack. In this 2002 DVD release, Grease lovers can also now see it in the correct 2:35 to 1 Panavision aspect ratio, and see retrospective interviews with cast members and director Randal Kleiser. All these stylistic touches are essential to the film's success. Without the vibrant colors, unforgettably campy and catchy tunes (like "Greased Lightning," "Summer Nights," and "You're the One That I Want"), and fabulously choreographed, widescreen musical numbers, the film would have to rely on a silly, cliché-filled plot that we've seen hundreds of times. As it is, the episodic story about the romantic dilemmas experienced by a group of graduating high school seniors remains fresh, fun, and incredibly imaginative.
The young, animated cast also deserves a lot of credit, bringing chemistry and energy to otherwise bland material. John Travolta, straight from his success in Saturday Night Fever, knows his sexual star power and struts, swaggers, sings, and dances appropriately, while Olivia Newton-John's portrayal of virgin innocence is the only decent acting she's ever done. And then there's Stockard Channing, spouting sexual double-entendres as Rizzo, the bitchy, raunchy leader of the Pink Ladies, who steals the film from both of its stars. Ignore the sequel at all costs. --Dave McCoy
Too often, sequels to popular films simply rehash the original film; call it the carbon-copy syndrome. Grease 2 suffers from no such malady, having almost nothing to do with the original film. Sure, it focuses on teens at Rydell High, the imaginary school from the first film, which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. But other than a few of the teachers, all of the characters are new and so are the songs--and more's the pity. By the time Grease hit the big screen, it already had had almost a decade as a theatrical musical, more than enough time to hone its mock-rock & roll score. But this sequel, which stars among others a then-unknown Michelle Pfeiffer, Maxwell Caulfield, and Lorna Luft (Judy Garland's daughter), has music that's neither fish nor fowl, neither rock nor Broadway. Meanwhile, the plot is a reversal of the first film, in which a cool guy fell for a square girl. In this one, the square is newcomer Caulfield, who catches the eye of tough girl Pfeiffer and her Pink Lady gang. The appearance of such pseudo-stars of the '50s, like Tab Hunter, is supposed to lend a nostalgic kick, but let's just say that Grease 2 slides almost instantly into obscurity. --Marshall Fine