This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Grease.”
The Movie: “Grease”
Starring: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing
Director: Randal Kleiser
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Good girl Sandy and greaser Danny fell in love over the summer. When they unexpectedly discover they’re now in the same high school, will they be able to rekindle their romance?
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75 percent
Froemming: After having the time of our lives last week with “Dirty Dancing,” I wanted to return to a franchise that we visited in the early days of the JOE-DOWN: “Grease.”
We tackled “Grease 2,” a baffling musical that had songs about reproduction by singing about pollination and tricking women into sleeping with men for the good of their country.
So I decided on the prequel (I know that is not the correct term, but I use it anyway because it upsets word nerds), “Grease.” A film that launched our hero John Travolta to such dizzying heights that he made a movie about a man’s love of a mechanical bull.
But before we visit Rydell High School once again, Brown what are your initial thoughts on this flick?
Brown: There is a trend in the Travolta movies we pick: Every character he plays belittles women to the point of exhaustion so they have to fall in love with him.
It’s disturbing, really.
So, I had never seen this movie in its entirety. And just like “Grease 2,” there are so many upsetting tidbits I wasn’t prepared for. Like, have you ever read the lyrics to “Greased Lightning?” They’re kind of (REDACTED) up. Either people ignored these things willfully because it’s a cheeky musical or no one really caught on. I can’t tell if this one or “Grease 2” was more forthright with its raunchiness.
While I lather up with hand sanitizer to deal with these gross, gross people, I’ll let you set the mood, Froemming.
Froemming: It is 1958, before the hippies destroyed America with their Beatle music, opposing Vietnam and whatnot and we meet two 30 year olds on a beach, in love. They are Sandy and Danny (Newton-John and Travolta) and we learn they had fallen for each other at the beach. How? Because throughout the next half-hour they never shut up about the (REDACTED) beach in which they had fallen in love.
Sandy says she is going back to Australia, because America was so great back then we didn’t tolerate immigrants from the land of “Crocodile Dundee.”
Brown: Wait, Sandy was from Australia? The movie never told me that a million times in the first 20 minutes…
Froemming: Now, I have a confession. I have never seen this movie before I sat down for it for this review. That means I watched “Grease 2” before the alleged classic original. My hot take: “Grease 2” is far superior.
Now we cut to an animated opening credits sequence, which shows grotesque caricatures of our cast. I wrote in my notes that the animator was not kind to the cast of this movie. Rizzo alone will haunt my dreams for decades to come.
Brown: Personally, I kind of like that “Schoolhouse Rock”-type of animation style. But, I did put in my notes that it was especially eerie that Travolta’s caricature looked very, very close to his wax statue-esque face in the “OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” TV series.
A quick aside on the beach scene. So, they had a summer fling and it seems like puppy love. And then Danny gets all gropey like he’s a Minnesota senator. After Sandy denies his advancements, he starts throwing sand at her playfully. You know what substance is never fun to have thrown at you? Sand.
Oh, the dickishness toward Sandy and the gropey nature… those are recurring tropes.
As I wrote many, many times in my notes: (REDACTED) you, Danny Zuko.
Froemming: Hell, after the credits as everyone is heading back to Rydell High, Danny gropes another dude’s junk like he was Kevin Spacey or something.
Danny Zuko is a sexual predator, people.
As we learned from “Grease 2,” the cool kids are the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies.
Brown: Nope. I’m nipping this in the bud right now: The T-Birds and the Pink Ladies are NOT the cool kids at Rydell High. You know why?
First, because they’re the type of groups that say they hate everything at the school. But there the T-Birds are, staying after school to heckle the football players. NO ONE does that. They’re also the type of losers who talk about how lame the pep rally is but they still go to it. But they park and group together just far enough to make themselves look like they’re too cool for it. They are the goth kids from “South Park” with leather jackets.
And my biggest point, and what was the most distracting point of this movie for me: Because they’re grown-ass adults at the school!
One of the teachers makes a joke early on about one of the kids being at Rydell longer than the teacher had been. And you know what? I don’t think that teacher was being sarcastic. After the movie, I looked up the ages of all the T-Birds and Pink Ladies of the main ensemble when “Grease” came out. The results?
Travolta: 24; ONJ: 29; Rizzo: 33; Kenickie: 27; Doody: 28; Sonny: 32; Putzie: 21; Frenchy: 26; Jan: 31; Marty: 22.
GO TO COLLEGE. GET A JOB. Quit living through high school like you’re Al Bundy reminiscing about being the leading rusher at Polk High.
Froemming: I hope all the T-Birds were drafted and sent to Vietnam.
Brown: They’re probably too old to qualify for the draft.
Froemming: Anyway, back to Rydell High. We see that Sandy lied to Danny about going back to her homeland, further proof that immigrants are untrustworthy. Because she is at Rydell as well. And she meets the Pink Ladies, and we soon venture into our first song (depressingly not about bowling) with “Summer Nights” a song I despise with the rage of a million fiery suns.
Brown: You hate it, huh? Well, Froemming, tell me more, tell me more…
Cool people don’t break out into song and dance numbers. These people are nerds of the worst variety.
Brown: It’s a musical, Froemming. Suspend your disbelief on when song gets broken out. Hell, you’ve been drinking with me before. I’m singing half the time after a couple cocktails.
Froemming: You also wonder, when tipsy, why I don’t cover more Foghat. This actually happened people.
Brown: Yeah, and you never answered the question.
Anyways, we get a little bit of a B-plot when at the pep rally, a guy, Craterface, drives by. He’s in a rival “gang,” the Scorpions. And he’s trying to take the T-Birds girls, or something.
Oh my God, we watched “Grease 2” again, didn’t we?
Froemming: Well, Frenchy and Craterface are both in the sequel. Which is kinda depressing if you think about it.
Anyway, Sandy reveals that the guy she fell for is Danny and the Pink Ladies, because they are terrible 30 year olds, don’t tell her that Danny also attends Rydell and that he is known to be popular with the ladies, a sly term for a man slut.
Now let’s talk about the next scene, which is a high school pep rally. It has everything. Students. Teachers. A body burning in effigy….WHAT? Holy (REDACTED) this was really messed up. I never went to pep rallies when I was in high school because I hated being around people, but is this a thing, Brown?
Brown: I was a football player and went to plenty of pep rallies. Even hosted one. During the fall, my school had a big bonfire. Never an effigy, though. I don’t think my high school does those bonfires anymore because my junior year, a freshman (willingly, according to rumor) got thrown into a lake next to the school by the seniors. Mom got angry, called the school, end of those pep rallies.
Froemming: So we have an all-white crowd with effigies on fire, is this a high school prep rally or Charlottesville?
Anyway, the Pink Ladies walk Sandy over to the T-Birds, where she sees Danny. And Danny, because he is trash, acts like a dick to her. You’re right, Travolta is troubling with women in every movie we have watched with him in for this blog.
To calm the situation, Frenchy invites Sandy to a slumber party, where these women drink wine, smoke and get Sandy to vomit.
Brown: I get it, Sandy. They are chugging wine and then Frenchy has the bright idea of “Hey, want a Twinkie with it? It’s a dessert wine!” As someone who decided a couple weeks ago that, after a late-night bowl of Lucky Charms, a glass of wine would be great as I hunkered down to watch “Mr. Robot” shortly afterwards, only to violently vomit 90 minutes later… I get it.
Now, Travolta and the T-Birds suck in this movie. But the Pink Ladies aren’t any better. As Sandy pukes in the bathroom, Rizzo and the rest of the ladies (save for Frenchy, to be fair), start mocking Sandy IN SONG about how Sandy acts like a goody-goody virgin flower. It takes a special, sadistic person to mock a person 10 feet away from you with rhythm and melody.
That leads to a Sandy song. ONJ has a lovely voice, but for her character breaking out into song in the middle of a neighborhood, I was hoping for an angry neighbor to yell at her.
Final point: Her and Danny knew they had a summer fling. Now, Sandy sings about how “hopefully devoted” to Danny she is. Are flings different in Australia?
Froemming: Yeah, she suddenly became Stacy from “Wayne’s World.” I figured later on she was going to offer Danny a gun rack as a gift.
The T-Birds show up and crash the slumber party. Now, here I laughed pretty hard because Rizzo says she is going to hang out with the guys and get her kicks while she’s young enough to do so.
Rizzo is 33, people.
Kenickie and Rizzo abandon the rest of the T-Birds in the middle of a random street to go bump some uglies. And we find out Kenickie’s condom broke, though I was pretty sure they were not having sex at this point. I thought it was at the Tommy-Wiseau-belly-button-humping stage.
Brown: Dude, of course they weren’t having sex. You put the condom on, then you have sex. I did have a laugh here because the condom broke due to it being in Kenickie’s wallet since seventh grade. I think most guys have that condom that has been in their wallet for far too long.
Froemming: So, the condom has been there for about 25 years then?
Brown: At least.
Also, do you understand the allure of those “makeout point” settings? You know what I don’t want when things get hot and heavy between myself and a lover? People that are a parking spot away from me.
Froemming: Now, the condom breaking is bafflingly connected to a subplot later on when Rizzo thinks she’s pregnant. I don’t think this movie understands what sex is.
While at makeout point, Craterface shows up and causes damage to Kenickie’s vehicle. That Craterface is such a joker!
OK, so now we have the T-Birds in the high school garage, working on the damaged car. And this leads into “Greased Lightning.” Now, for a PG movie, I was shocked by some of the words in this song.
Brown: Oh, you mean lyrics like “The chicks’ll cream?”
Froemming: And referring to their car as a “pussy wagon?”
Brown: I need to see a high school production of “Grease” to see how they clean this stuff up.
Also, it’s clear Travolta has never worked on a car his whole life.
After this number, we see Danny
manipulating trying to get back into Sandy’s good graces after seeing her on a date with the Rydell star quarterback. Part of his attempt is to try to become a jock. And… it doesn’t go well. At all. You mean to tell me this (alleged) high-school senior has never played a game of basketball?
Froemming: He handles a basketball in the same Martian way as Tommy Wiseau handles a football in “The Room.”
He then tries wrestling, which doesn’t go well either. Then baseball. Danny somehow knows less about sports than I do.
Brown: He eventually takes up track/cross-country, which is baffling for a character who chain smokes through a good portion of this movie.
We also get this weird sequence with Frenchie where she decides to drop out of Rydell to go to beauty school. Wait, you couldn’t graduate high school THEN go to beauty school?
Well, she drops out of beauty school, too, after accidentally dying her hair pink (full disclosure: I dug the pink hair). She then gets this trippy dream sequence where Frankie Avalon sings a song to her, telling Frenchy to go back to high school.
Froemming: Frankie Avalon insults Frenchy to her face in song. It was insane. He’s basically calling her a failure to a poppy tune. My take: Frankie Avalon is a jerk.
Brown: If you gave Rizzo five minutes, she would have done the same thing to Frenchy.
Now, another subplot as a TV show, National Bandstand, is going to be filmed at the school. And it’s here where the Rydell dance program really shines because EVERY. SINGLE. KID. AT THIS SCHOOL. Dances like a damned professional. It makes up for the terrible football team, I suppose.
Froemming: I wonder if there are actual towns across America where everyone looks 30 but is a teen and can dance like pros. We’ve seen this in “Dirty Dancing” and “Footloose” as well.
Brown: Let’s not forget the show’s host, Vince Fontaine.
Froemming: You mean Roy Moore? Guy is creeping around a high school hitting on teenage girls here.
Brown: Yep. Wonder if anyone brought a yearbook to the dance?
I mean, this sequence was fun. I was kind of hoping to see Charlie Kelly break out his Berlin tape during the big dance-off to perform his talent show routine from “Always Sunny.” I’m also convinced that Sandy and Danny were the originators of Gangnam Style. Remember when that was a thing?
Now, there’s a point where this girl, Cha-Cha, butts in during the routine and wins the whole thing with Danny. Sandy runs off during this for reasons. Honestly, this was just a confusing sequence.
Finally, Danny and Cha-Cha win, they dance to “Blue Moon,” which is a favorite of mine. And the T-Birds decide to moon the TV camera.
*Sigh* I’m not a fan of this movie.
Froemming: Back to the sex predator that is Danny. In an attempt to win Sandy over (again), he takes her to the drive-in. Here, he straight-up elbows her in the face while trying to take off his ring. After she forgives him for that, he offers her his ring which she accepts. He then pounces on her like he was Harvey Weinstein or something, which was deeply troubling to me.
Brown: I wrote in my notes that Danny Zuko could be a modern-day Republican.
Froemming: If I learned anything in the past few months, the only thing that is bipartisan in this country is sexual assault. Which depresses me. And should depress everyone.
Brown: Agreed, sadly.
Froemming: Good thing Sandy escapes this maniac’s vehicle.
Brown: Also at the drive-in, Rizzo reveals she missed her period and thinks she’s pregnant. And from the 50-foot walk from the bathroom to Kenickie’s car, the entire school finds out. It’s like the purple monkey dishwasher joke from “The Simpsons.”
After his groping shenanigans, Danny is stranded at the movie. It was here where I wished he was attacked by a pack of starving coyotes. Alas, that dream didn’t come true.
Froemming: Where is Butch from “Pulp Fiction” with a machine gun when we finally need him?
Now, we get to a drag race between Craterface and Kenickie, where the winner gets the pinks (car titles). The T-Birds spent the school year working on Kenickie’s car with stolen parts at the high school, which sounds like a premise from “Saved By The Bell” to me.
The car is souped up. And we have this moment where Kenickie asks Danny to be his guy at the race. What guy? I have no idea, but we get this moment where they almost kiss each other and I thought that would have been a more compelling love story than the one we got.
Brown: Yeah, they’re racing on Thunder Road, which A. Gives me Springsteen flashbacks that I don’t necessarily want, and B. Is not an actual road. They’re racing in the damn Los Angeles River. Which for the record, isn’t a river so much as it is a drainage runoff.
Also, Kenickie gets knocked out by the car, so it’s proven he’s as fragile as a pro wrestling referee.
After Danny wins the death-defying race, Sandy decides to do what NO PERSON IN A RELATIONSHIP SHOULD EVER DO: Change who she is to be what the abusive, sexual deviant of a crush wants her to be. Are you insane, Sandy. Wait, don’t answer that. Of course you are.
Froemming: From our review of “Grease 2”: “Well, Michael gets the message loud and clear: Change who you are at your core to impress a potential significant other. That is always the start to a healthy relationship, with lies and deceit about who you truly are.”
Some things truly never change at Rydell High!
Brown: It’s the same (REDACTED) movie!
With the school year over, they have a carnival on the football field. Now, who would go to this? Like, I actually enjoyed the high school experience, but I’ll be damned if I was lingering on school grounds on my last day there. I was gone the moment that last bell rang. Mentally, I was gone for months, senior slide and all.
It’s here we see the sweet, innocent Sandy wearing leather pants, a greaser jacket, sporting puffed-up hair and a cigarette pressed between her lips.
I don’t care how catchy “You’re The One That I Want” was (for the record: My favorite song in the movie). This is a terrible moment with terrible people who are going to have a terrible relationship. Garbage people, all of them.
I’m sure the returning students and faculty of Rydell were relieved to see those weird-ass adults leave their campus for good… until Frenchy returns for the sequel.
Froemming: One last thing I want to mention here between the two movies. I found the weird ass songs in “Grease 2” much more enjoyable because of how strange they were. This movie had the hits, “Grease 2” gave us the WTF tunes.
Brown: According to Froemming, “Grease” is to Weezer’s “Blue Album” as “Grease 2” is to “Pinkerton.”
Danny and Sandy take off in Kenickie’s car because he’s obviously a beta-male who doesn’t deserve it. And they fly off into the sky, where I hope they get hit by an airplane.
Brown: I bet they got into a sky auto accident with the cab from the end of “Sid and Nancy.”
Froemming: I say we sing and dance our way over to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Nope. I’m probably more biased because I generally dislike musicals. Also, Travolta is once again a creep toward women in this movie.
Brown: To take from my review of “Grease 2”: Avoid this movie. … The songs, the plot, the characters, it all hurts my brain. I honestly can’t think of one redeemable thing from this film.
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