It’s a musical. About perky Australian transfer student Sandy falling for quintessential ’50s American greaser Danny Zuko. That ends with the pair literally flying off in a car. And still we consider it a classic? Never underestimate the power of catchy tunes, Travolta’s hips, and a sweet-yet-smutty script. But will the Grease: Rockin’ Rydell Edition DVD, with its 12 new extras and limited-edition mini black (faux) leather T-Bird jacket packaging, blow your bobby socks off? Well, that depends.
If it’s scores of anecdotes from Travolta and Newton-John you’re after, no. Interviews from ‘78 just show how pretty they are, while a three-minute red-carpet chat from 2002, when the film was first released on DVD, only reveals that they’re now veterans of the trite sound bite. (You’re amazed at how comfortable you are seeing the cast again, John? How fascinating.) At least Travolta proves entertaining in footage from the 2002 DVD launch party, where he joins his costar on stage to sing ”You’re the One That I Want.” It’s required viewing for anyone who’s ever karaoke’d that song in public, or who intends to partake in this DVD’s special sing-along feature. (You will see how ridiculous you looked.) The fact that Travolta later remembers the shoo-bop-bop bounce for ”Summer Nights,” but has to check the TelePrompTer for the song’s lyrics, is mildly disheartening, but it’s perhaps the finest testament to choreographer Patricia Birch’s unforgettable moves.
Genuinely good times are found on the making-of doc (Stockard Channing says Jeff Conaway insisted that Rizzo’s ”hickeys from Kenickie” be real) and throughout the recently recorded commentary by Birch and director Randal Kleiser, who note the many differences between Grease’s Broadway and film scripts: In the stage version, for example, Kenickie sings ”Greased Lightning” instead of Danny, which would have been a nice consolation prize for Conaway (who’d played Zuko on Broadway but was demoted to the horny sidekick for the film) had the solo not been handed over to Travolta. Kleiser also drops all kinds of trivia. He points out an otherwise unremarkable scene Travolta asked to reshoot because the camera didn’t catch his good side (the left, apparently); that some of the Coke signs in the Frosty Palace were blurred because producers had struck a product-placement deal with Pepsi; and that one of the movie’s main dancers is Andy Tennant, who went on to direct Ever After and Sweet Home Alabama. That’s the kind of minutiae we, the people who’ve already devoted about 143 hours of our lives to watching this movie, deserve. Maybe in the next edition — which should also come in a Pink Ladies jacket, Paramount — Travolta and Newton-John will play along.