"Grease" Blu-ray Review
May 14, 2009 by Zach Demeter
Really, it’s almost a joke at this point to review a movie like Grease. You mention its name and everyone instantly recalls the 1978 movie that shot John Travolta to stardom and entertained them relentlessly through the years with all of the humor, romance, and songs that make it such a classic film. Although it spawned a sequel that few want to recall , the original remains at the top of music fans lists as one of the most entertaining films of the past thirty years. And what better way to commemorate what would be its thirty-first anniversary in 2009 than with a Blu-ray release, allowing fans to see the film for the first time in full 1080p high definition.
John Travolta solidified his position as the most versatile and magnetic screen presence of the decade in this film version of the smash hit play Grease. Recording star Olivia Newton-John made her American film debut as Sandy, Travolta's naive love interest. The impressive supporting cast reads like a "who's who" in this quintessential musical about the fabulous '50s. Grease is not just a nostalgic look at a simpler decade--it's an energetic and exciting musical homage to the age of rock 'n' roll!
While I’d never taken the time out to watch the film in its entirety (face it—I’m not the target audience and the film is nearly a decade older than I am, so I wasn’t even around to appreciate the hysteria it caused when it was originally released), it’s not one that’s easy to miss over the years. It airs on TV all the time and though I’d seen it broken up and never in order, watching it from start to finish finally at least allows me to add it to my list of classics I hadn’t seen.
The film itself is a classic high school love interest that is fraught with difficulty due to social castes. It’s not a terribly interesting sounding affair when you compare it to the myriad of other films and TV series that have done the same thing over the years, but Grease does it with music and with such an outstanding cast that you can’t help but enjoy it even on a small level. Even if I’m not in the demographic of this film, I still found some entertainment from it…it is a classic, after all, and if nothing else the vintage cars in the film was enough to keep me moderately interested.
Whether it’s bringing up issues such as teen pregnancy and high school drop outs (mind you, this is a PG film from 1968…so that’s pretty weighty material), Grease may look dated but it’s really a story that could apply to almost any teen today. Granted, I have to wonder how after Sandy and Danny spent a whole summer vacation together and assumed they’d never see each other again end up at the same school without knowing it…I mean, doesn’t that ever come up? If you met each other and you are supposedly in love, wouldn’t you maybe drop the name of the school you’re going to?
But hey…that’s all minor details that really make no difference one way or another. It’s the reactions from Danny and Sandy that make the film such a classic and the resulting musical pieces are what solidify it as one of the most memorable musicals in the history of film. Let’s just hope they don’t get wild and go for a Grease 3 for some reason…although I guess that’s the void High School Musical is filling.
Overall if you haven’t seen it for some reason then…really, either you have no interest or you aren’t in the target audience. Check it out if you want, but at this point it’s almost mandatory viewing for teenagers in high school (although I imagine it is much less “cool” to watch the films your parents grew up with, but whatever. Another social hurdle to overcome). Recommended
Those who own the 2007 Rockin’ Rydell Edition on DVD will know what expect from this release in terms of extra, as this sports the same package (and cover art). Inside the packaging are a standard disc and an insert denoting the importance of keeping your Blu-ray player up-to-date. This is all wrapped up in a standard Elite Blu-ray case and with a set of nicely animated and easy to navigate menus.
The film is over thirty years old, so you can’t expect much from the AVC encoded 1080p transfer other than that it looks better than a standard DVD would and…really, that’s what we get here. There’s nothing really disappointing or horrible about the transfer here, although I will say that it is surprisingly pristine looking, give or take some grain. I hesitate to say that Paramount did any kind of DNR on the film as there’s the presence of grain (which is well defined) and there’s a solid amount of detail to be had throughout the film, so why it looks so tidy is kind of a mystery. Not that it’s a bad thing, mind you, but it’s slightly unnatural looking considering the films age.
As good as the video transfer is, however, the TrueHD 5.1 mix is a step below that. While it reproduces the dialogue and music as clean as it possibly can, there just isn’t much channel separation going on, which, again, this is a thirty-year-old film, so expecting the surrounds to kick you in the head is ridiculous. So while the audio doesn’t amaze, it doesn’t necessarily disappoint either—it is what it is, but upgrading to the Blu-ray edition solely for the video and audio really won’t give you all that much extra. Although that picture really is confusingly nice to look at…like I know there’s something wrong with it, but for the life of me there’s nothing I can really pinpoint.
Moving onto the extras we get:
• Commentary: Commentary by Director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch
• Introduction by Randal Kleiser
• Rydell Sing-Along - Song Jump
• Featurette: The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease
• Additional Scenes: Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes with introduction by Randal Kleiser (12:08)
• Grease on DVD Launch Party
• Grease Memories from John & Olivia
• The Moves Behind the Music
• Thunder Roadsters
• John Travolta and Allan Carr "Grease Day" Interview
• Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood "Grease Day" Interview
• Photo Galleries:
Rydell High Year Book
• Trailers: Theatrical Trailer HD
These are all carried over from the “Rockin’ Rydell Edition” and none are in HD, save for the theatrical trailer. It’s really a fantastic collection of extras and with interviews with the cast and crew, there’s plenty of reminiscing going on that any fan of the film is going to love watching.
Overall a solid release and worth picking up if you don’t already own the DVD. If you do, however, it really depends on how badly you want a 1080p transfer of the film which, while great looking, really won’t warrant the upgrade for many. Recommended.
Grease – Rockin’ Rydell Edition is now available on Blu-ray.