Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

Look at Me, A New 'Grease' on DVD

Grease
They go together: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in "Grease." (Paramount Pictures)

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By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 19, 2006; 12:00 AM

"Grease: Rockin' Rydell Edition" (PG; List price: $19.99)
Release Date: Sept. 19

Quick, what's the top-grossing musical of all time?

"The Sound of Music"? "My Fair Lady"? Maybe 2002's Oscar-winning "Chicago"?

Wrong on all counts. The correct response is "Grease," the enduring sing-a-long hit that has earned more than $394 million worldwide since its release in 1978. Of course, this answer comes as no surprise to the many children of the '70s who longed to slip on Olivia Newton-John's black satin hot pants and sing "You're the One That I Want" to a young, lean John Travolta. Those children, and their children, are presumably the primary audience for a new special edition of "Grease," dubbed the "Rockin' Rydell Edition" in honor of the high school where much of the show's '50s-era singing, dancing and romancing takes place.

Hardcore fans still stinging from the disappointment of the 2002 DVD -- which contained few extras and menu screens that looked like they'd been designed by a first-grader -- should be much happier with the revision. This time out, Paramount got smart and dressed things up a bit ... literally. Not only does the single disc incluide a respectable number of extras, including extended scenes, several featurettes, singalong versions of every number and a commentary track by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Pat Birch, the DVD actually comes with its own costume: a little leather T-birds jacket that fits snugly around the case.

While this amped-up version of "Grease" certainly shows marked improvement, the Pink Lady package is hardly perfect. Some of the features, such as the utterly pointless mini-doc on '50s car collectors, don't deliver the sort of arcane trivia and behind-the-scenes dirt that Danny Zuko fans desire. The brief making-of doc, "The Time, the Place, the Motion: Remembering 'Grease,'" and the commentary track do their best to compensate. But it's hard not to wish for better deleted scenes, a feature-length commentary from Travolta and Newton-John and a full-length look at the televised special about the movie's premiere party (we get all-too-brief excerpts from that telecast instead).

But as any hopelessly devoted "Grease" fan knows, loving this movie has always meant overlooking its flaws. Anyone who can accept that Stockard Channing, who was 34 when she starred as Rizzo, is a high school student, or that Sandy and Danny can drive a souped-up car into the sky probably can overlook this releases's shortcomings. The Rockin' Rydell Edition is certainly the best DVD version of this infectious film -- the original high school musical -- on the market. And that might automatically make it the one that you want.

Bawdiest Bonus Point: During "Remembering 'Grease'," Channing points out how committed Jeff Conaway, who played Rizzo's boyfriend Kenickie, was to his character. "Jeff insisted that when I had a hickey from Kenickie that he give it to me himself," she recalls.

Most Informative Bonus Point: The Kleiser/Birch commentary track requires a little patience, but offers the most interesting "Grease" nuggets on this DVD. Among other things, we learn that all of the Coca-Cola signs in the Frosty Palace, the local soda fountain, had to be blurred because of a product placement deal forged with Pepsi by writer/producer Allan Carr. No matter how many times you've seen this movie, that's probably something you never noticed.

Most Endearing/Embarassing Bonus Point: The footage from the 2002 DVD's launch party is a must-watch, if only to see Newton-John, Travolta and other cast members (is that really Cha Cha?) perform a few numbers from the movie. Travolta's voice falters a bit during "You're the One That I Want" but the group has no trouble doo-be-dooing its way through an energetic round of "Summer Nights."

On DVD This Week: "Hard Candy" and more.

For more on new DVDs, visit washingtonpost.com's DVD section.


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