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Monday, September 14, 2015

I was just a young buck coming into my own when the movie Grease hit the theaters, but I was old enough to get swept up in the mania the movie caused all over the world. I remember hearing something about Grease being a successful play that was adapted into a movie, but I mostly remember the amazing amount of hype created for the movie. Luckily, the movie lived up to the hype.

Just about anyone of the female persuasion who was born in the late 1960’s can quote Grease word for word and sing the songs note for note. But to say that it was only a chick flick would be missing the point. For people at or near high school age, Grease was a fun way to look at a period in your life that was destined to be much less enjoyable than the version on screen. It was the ideal escape movie for high school kids and everyone went nuts for it.

John Travolta had just done Saturday Night Fever the year before and that really helped to boost the overall female interest in the movie. To balance the female ticket buying public, Olivia Newton-John played the female lead and the guys were in line for tickets too. Grease is a movie that has something for everyone, and that includes people who enjoy watching 30 and 40-something actors playing high school roles.

While most musicals never seem to exceed their soundtracks in sales, the movie Grease stood its own with its soundtrack and made $189 million in 1978 dollars, which is around $678 million today. The movie was a hit with the fans, a hit with the critics and a hit with the bankers. It remains one of the most successful musical films of all-time.

When you’re a kid getting swept up in the look and sound of Grease, you tend to forget that the plot is pretty thin. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl again but wants to act tough in front of his friends so boy loses girl, then boy gets girl back when she decides to be a slut at the senior carnival at the end of the year. You know; that old chestnut.

But the great thing about Grease is all of the accessories it throws in to accent that plot. The musical numbers, the subplots and the action are all very well done. We actually kind of care that Rizzo’s pregnancy is going to screw up her life, and we also care that Kenickie has to bow out of the big race because he got bashed in the head with a car door.

The thing that always bugs me about musicals is that the tunes usually never serve a purpose. The characters get together, they sing a little, they dance a little and everyone goes home. But with Grease, the musical numbers escalate in intensity and help to enhance the emotion of the film. The plot has to be thin for this to work, which is what makes the writing of this movie so brilliant.

A complicated plot would make the musical numbers useless. But with the main plot and sub-plots being so basic, the songs are there to express the emotions of each character and it all works so well.

This movie works because of the songs, which I find to be unusual for a musical. With most musicals, you can throw out the songs and have a 15-minute snoozefest that no one really wants to see. With this one, the songs are a critical part of the story and the movie cannot survive without them.

I always liked Grease, but I never got a chance to see the stage production. I have the original stage soundtrack on vinyl and I should probably give it a listen to hear how the songs evolved from the stage to the screen.

I know that Grease is set in the 1950s, but I honestly believe it can work today just as well as it worked when it first came out. Despite its feel as a period piece, it truly is timeless. This is a movie you should put on your bucket list and check it out when you get the chance.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5

+George N Root III  is a drive-in fanatic who loves good movies. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him an email at Follow the conversation about this and other movies at

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