Grease Sing-Along

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If you haven’t seen Grease, somehow, but intend to break yourself in with this sing-along, be prepared to wonder what all the fuss is about. Grease is a girlhood rite of passage, a high school theatre staple, and a cheesy classic, but it is quite terrible. The film version of course being better known than the stage version, 1978’s Grease has even infected stage productions to add the movie-only songs (You’re The One That I Want, most egregiously). It’s amusing to watch the leader of the rival gang The Scorpions (nonexistent in the play) sport scars for acne his character should instead be aflame with afresh. It’s campy fun to see Frankie Avalon make mid-twenties actress Didi Conn swoon and to worry about 34 year-old (!) Stockard Channing get knocked up by her 28 year-old boyfriend. (And people complain about Glee’s 21 year old stars!)

These are known quantities, though I confess it had been so long since I had seen it (the DVD, a gift, remains shrink wrapped) I had forgotten much. It all comes swirling back, though. It’s certainly still got that good ol’ Rydell High spirit, fun costumes, and that terrible message. And fun, energetic dancing which was definitely out of vogue in 1970’s movies.

As for the Singalong part, well, it’s new and special all right. Has it been a while since you had to recall “rama lama lama, kadingety ding de dong, shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yippity boom de boom?” The lyrics are up there, in distracting yet fun and kicky animations. (Personal favorite: editorial commentary on Channing’s Rizzo’s virtue: TRASHY!) The Sound of Music Sing-along, which resembled nothing so much as a lush big-screen karaoke with discreet white block lettering, focused on the movie as the draw. Grease Sing-along pulls out the stops with hearts floating up and out of “devoted,” words getting kicked by dancers, and unnecessary extra bits like flying calendar pages and moons and huge fonts. Anyway, it’s fun, but it kind of feels like it’s trying too hard. It’s less a gift to the fans than an attempt to engage new, very young ones. You know how some movies do a cutesy little scrapbook or yearbook thing for the end credits, chockablock with really blatant and obvious jokes? That’s this. Inexplicably, the opening Barry Gibb theme song “Grease is the Word” has no screen lyrics.

Again, Grease is a romantic musical comedy from a simpler time, depicting an even simpler time. Blazing through the divorce-frenzied disco era came a sweet, slightly raunchy musical set during the innocent 1950’s, where girls are still girls and boys are still boys, where Frenchy shouldn’t pursue her feminazi dream of becoming a beautician, where Sandy has to change who she is in order to keep the man who’s not brave enough to admit to his friends that he did love you as you were, where your dates discard you like the Kleenex from your bra when you get home from semi-consensual drive-in petting. Grease sparked the 50’s retro craze that contributed to the new wave/mod look and reminded 1970s’ and 1980’s teens that they weren’t the first teenages: the Boomers were. It was our primer for romantic angst and negative peer pressure, and it’s still a rockin’ fun time, even if a slightly tarnished one.

MPAA Rating PG-13

Release date 7/8/10 (originally 1978)

Time in minutes 110

Director Randal Kleiser

Studio Paramount/Insurge