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Paramount Home Video presents
Grease (SE) (1977)

"Oh that's cool baby. You know how it is, rockin' an' rollin' an' what not."
- Danny (John Travolta)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: January 05, 2007

Stars: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John
Other Stars: Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Edd Byrnes, Sid Ceaser, Alice Ghostley, Dody Goodman, Sha-Na-Na, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn
Director: Randal Kleiser

MPAA Rating: PG for (suggestive lyrics, sexuality, some language)
Run Time: 01h:50m:25s
Release Date: September 19, 2006
UPC: 097361183947
Genre: musical


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BA-B B

DVD Review

Grease is one of those review-proof movies. It was a huge hit in 1978, propelled forward by a chart-topping soundtrack, John Travolta's famous dancing feet, Olivia Newton-John's winsome charms, and 1950s nostalgia. And its fan-base continues to grow even today, spanning the generations—the 1998 theatrical re-release was a huge deal for a large percentage of my high school class, none of whom could probably name more than one member of the cast of Happy Days, but who nevertheless could not get enough of the gang from Rydell High.

It's not hard to understand the lasting appeal. John Travolta is as iconic as Danny Zuko as he was in his breakthrough role as Tony Manero (Saturday Night Fever). On the surface, Danny's the typical tough guy, head of the T-Birds and an automotive expert. But underneath, he's sensitive—over the summer, he met, and fell for, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), the cute-as-a-button goody-goody who he thought was moving back to Australia. When the two unexpectedly attend the same high school, though, Danny has trouble shedding his tough-guy veneer. Will the two reunite? Will they sing various love laments in the general direction of their object of affection? Has anyone not seen this movie before?

Grease is a good movie, not a great one. Danny and Sandy's story is pretty typical for a musical, and it's developed in fits and starts, particularly towards the end. The colorful supporting cast, including Rizzo (Stockard Channing), Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), and "beauty school drop-out" Frenchie (Didi Conn), provides a lot of entertainment, but not a lot of depth. In fact, only Rizzo is given even cursory character development as she deals with facing life as a mother out-of-wedlock. That's not to slam the performances, as the supporting cast is top-notch, particularly Channing, who steals every scene she's in. And even under-written characters can be marvelously entertaining, but some of the extra material snipped from the original Broadway production is missed.

So the plot isn't great. That's ok. Grease is so much more than that. There's the music, for one. The rock score is full of infectious tunes, with not a dud among them. Hey, if they weren't great songs, we wouldn't be forced to sing them at weddings, would we? The period setting is totally charming, even if it is utterly manufactured. It's the '50s remembered through the gauze of two intervening decades, like American Graffiti with singing and dancing. If you've seen the movie, undoubtedly you'll appreciate its charms (I've met very few who can say they hate it). If you haven't, "there are worse things I could do" than tell you to stick this platter in your player.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Grease came to DVD in 2002 with a grainy, disappointing transfer that all but announced an eventual remaster. It took a while, but it's finally here, and the results were worth the wait.

This new edition features much-improved image quality. Colors are brighter. The print is cleaner, with a lot less dirt and grain. Clarity and detail are vastly improved, though the picture is still a tad on the soft side. If we'd gotten this edition four years ago, there would have been nothing to complain about.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access


Audio Transfer Review: This time around, Grease includes the same remastered 5.1 track as the last disc, along with a 2.0 mix. The audio is identical to the 2002 DVD. The remix seems to be one of those that adds surround enhancement where it isn't really needed. Dynamic range is very good, handling the highs and lows of the music without ever sounding shrill. Dialogue is clear, anchored in the center channel (as are the vocals during songs), and the front soundstage provides good directionality for dialogue and effects. Surround use is limited, except perhaps for scant support for the score, and the LFE channel, though limited, adds a bit of kick to the songs.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Sing-a-long
  2. Photo galleries
  3. Excerpts from Grease Day USA TV special
Extras Review: Grease's DVD debut felt pretty anemic, with only a short promotional featurette and a trailer by way of extras, but this re-issue gives proper attention to the perennial favorite, starting with the nifty packaging, which houses a standard keepcase inside a miniature T-Birds leather jacket (some retailers offer an exclusive Pink Ladies version as well).

As for what's actually on the disc, fans will probably want to turn to the newly-recorded commentary track with director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch. It's sort of a low-key affair, with Kleiser reminiscing on the production and Birch piping in with occasional comments about the dancing, and it provides some nice background.

Most notable is embarrassingly-titled The Time, the Place, the Motion: Remembering Grease, a new, 22-minute featurette that offers a retrospective on the film via interviews with most of the principals, though big-wigs like Travolta and Newton-John appear only in clips excerpted from the featurette from the older DVD (and even those clips came from an earlier special that appeared on the 1998 laserdisc). Two featurettes offer a closer look at The Moves Behind the Music (eight minutes on the dancing) and Thunder Roadsters (five minutes on vintage autos).

Clearly in the snoozer camp, for me anyway, are featurettes that focus on, wait for it, the previous DVD release in 2002. Um, OK. So, yeah, Grease Memories from John and Olivia is a short talking-head interview with the pair and the 15-minute Grease on DVD Launch Party is an amalgam of footage from the press event, during which the stars perform a few songs on stage. Marketing synergy, thy name is Paramount.

Eleven alternate takes, presented in black-and-white with an introduction by Kleiser, don't differ much from what you'll see in the finished film. Rydell Sing-a-long presents 11 cuts karaoke-style. There are also a few photo galleries, the trailer, and some vintage clips from the Grease Day USA TV special that aired when the film was first released in 1978.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Well, it may have taken four years, but the re-release of Grease we all knew was coming is finally here, and with a vastly improved transfer, decent audio, and a T-Bird full of new bonus features, it's definitely the one that you want.

 


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