Rated PG. 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Publication date: Apr. 3, 1998
Review by Jeanne Aufmuth
In the late 1970s John Travolta was hot off the success of "Saturday Night Fever," a film that single-handedly launched the disco phenomenon, and television's "Welcome Back, Kotter." Olivia Newton-John was the Princess of Pop, racking up People's Choice and Billboard's Favorite Performer Awards. They were a golden couple, and their chemistry was electric. She could sing, he could dance, and they could front a lavish musical production with their eyes closed.
The story is simple, easy, and fun. Sandy (Newton-John) and Danny's (Travolta) summer romance suffers disastrous consequences when they find themselves at the same high school, members of polar opposite cliques. She's a Sandra Dee-like good girl, and he's a cool, leather-jacketed slickster. Throughout the film, Danny and Sandy attract and repel, with the help of typical teen roadblocks such as slumber parties, auto shop, and sock hops. The wacky high-schoolers cheerfully hoof their way through perky fare like "Summer Lovin" and "Greased Lightning," all the while searching for a Technicolor happy ending. The supporting cast lists such stellar thespians as Stockard Channing, Eve Arden, and Frankie Avalon, who stars in a dippy dream sequence. Intense studio debate last year centered on the choice of "Grease" or "Saturday Night Fever" for the red-carpet, re-release treatment.
"Saturday Night Fever" is a more complex film, a slice of urban anthropology tackling such issues as date rape, family dysfunction, and the contemporary mating game. But "Grease" has family appeal; witness my teen-age daughters who already have weekend plans to be at the Cineplex on opening day. A nostalgia fix for baby boomers and lots of jingling in the coffers of Paramount Pictures. Looks like a win-win situation.