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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Grease (Blu-ray)
Grease (Blu-ray)
Paramount // PG // May 5, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted May 2, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Musicals have been pretty popular on home video in the last few years, thanks to the likes of Hairspray, Rent and Sweeney Todd. When we're talking about withstanding the test of time though, there's only one word that comes to mind, and Grease is that word! It's impressively spawned numerous revivals, including one that hosted a reality television show to find its leading cast, and a theatrical sequel that... well, anyone would drink a pint of whiskey to try and forget. There's no question that Grease is still as influential and iconic today as it ever was. The real question is if this first ever Blu-ray release of the Rockin' Rydell edition is worth your hard earned money or not. After all, we've supposedly seen the definitive version of the film on DVD, because, you know, a leather jacket slip cover has to imply definitive, right?

There's not much I could honestly say about Grease that hasn't been said before. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John solidified their success in the entertainment biz because of it, and the film has made more than Scrooge McDuck. For those of you who still haven't experienced Grease yet, it's really a pretty basic story. Danny and Sandy have a fling over summer vacation. They were smitten from the moment they met, and spent the entire summer hanging all over each other and enjoying romantic nights. They didn't really know much about each other, except for the fact that when the summer was over they'd most likely never see each other again. On the first day of school however, greaser Danny finds his summer love is now attending the same school he is. Sandy reaches out to Danny, but her social status in school as a goody two shoes has Danny acting like a jerk whenever he's around his greaser friends. Fed up with the hot and cold routine from someone who supposedly loves her, Sandy begins slipping away from Danny, and he has to decide what's more important; social cliques or his undying affection for the girl he fell in love with over the summer.

Grease isn't as plain as the love story premise would have you initially believe. There are plenty of characters the film follows, and the worlds they all live in are drastically different from one another. In its 110 minute runtime, Grease explores a very effective and stereotypical 1950's scene. Everything is here from the leather jacket territorial gang brawls, hanging out at the local diner, dance competitions in the school gymnasium, street racing and more. It's not all about the fun times though, and that's where Grease really gains an incredible level of depth to its story. The most prominent examples in the film deal with dropping out of high school and teen pregnancy. Not only do such issues effectively add a bit of weight to the film, it also helps to bring it closer to reality with the audience. High school has always been about dealing with peer pressure to some extent, as well as coming into your own and making some pretty serious decisions about life. That side of high school is portrayed in Grease very well

In the end though, it is a musical, and it's a fun one with terrific pacing at that. There are plenty of fun and laughable moments along the way to make you feel like you're a part of the very cliques you're watching, and the music that drives the song and dance routines are undeniably timeless. Even if you're not a fan of musicals in general, Grease deserves to be seen at least once. It's not just for those who enjoy the singing and dancing. There's a great story with numerous characters to follow, and the context in which much of it is displayed isn't nearly as squeaky clean as newcomers to the film might think. All in all, this is a highly entertaining flick, and that's coming from someone who isn't exactly a musical connoisseur. Take my word for it and give Grease Lightnin' a spin!


Video

Grease is compressed at 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC codec, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

In short, Grease isn't really an impressive Blu-ray title per se, but it's definitely a bit better than the standard definition Rockin' Rydell edition. The same issues that were apparent on the standard def transfer are still here, namely an inconsistent level of beautiful detail throughout the picture. Much of the film displays a fantastic amount of detail, creating a look of depth I never would have thought possible for such a film. The added detail really adds some sharpness, as well as a great amount of vibrancy to the color. Contrast levels are consistently strong as well, thanks to some great black levels that never crush any aspect of the image. Unfortunately, there are plenty of shots throughout the film that are less than impressive, displaying a level of softness that completely detracts from the depth much of the rest of the film displays.

The print itself looks very clean, in fact, it looks a little too clean. There's some grain present, but for a film from 1978 that was originally shot on 35mm print, it seems like there really should be more. I'm completely against any digital scrubbing that could take away from a film's original charm, but I guess Paramount could have done a lot worse by eradicating grain altogether. As I've said, the film shows an impressive amount of detail much of the time, so I can't nay-say about it too much this time around. There is some slight edge enhancement that can be seen at times, but it's not terribly distracting either.

All in all, this is the best Grease has ever looked. I would absolutely recommend the upgrade from the standard definition DVD to the die-hard fans, as it is a pretty solid improvement. For those of you that can't justify upgrading to a Blu-ray for a transfer that's not consistently solid throughout, then many of you should probably give this a rental before deciding to make a purchase. Just know the minor issues across the transfer are related to the master and not the transfer itself, which is a pretty perfect representation of the source.


Audio

Much like the video aspect of the transfer, this is the best presentation of Grease to date considering the source, but it's certainly not demo worthy material by any means. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing that's bad with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that's here. The film is faithfully presented with great sounding dialogue from the center channel, and the music sounds as good as it possibly can for a recording that was done for a 1978 theatrical release. My issue comes from more of the mix in general, as it's very front channel heavy, only occasionally using the rears to add subtle ambience to the musical numbers. That's pretty much how I would have expected Grease to sound back in the day however, which makes the audio transfer incredibly faithful, but not exactly a huge step up from the standard definition DVD. Or, at least not enough for those who aren't audiophiles or fans of the film.


Extras

Commentary by Director Randal Kleiser and Choreographer Patricia Birch - It's not the most interesting commentary track that's out there, but Kleiser and Birch actually do a pretty good job at filling the 110 minute runtime with numerous aspects about the production. Having the Choreographer accompany the Director for this track was a great idea, as it's the most important aspect of this film outside of the normal production values we could hear about on almost any other film. Give this one a listen.

Introduction by Director Randal Kleiser - Kleiser pops on for just under half a minute to give a quick rundown about the film.

Rydell Sing-Along - This allows you to jump to whichever song you want so you can ham it up with your friends while butchering timeless classics. You can watch these individually or all at once, and you can even turn the karaoke style feature on for when you're watching the feature itself.

The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease - This is mostly comprised of old and new interview footage of the major players affiliated with the film discussing how they became involved with Grease, but there's also some decent behind the scenes footage to be seen as well. Running at approximately 22 minutes, this featurette doesn't present any groundbreaking information, but the fans are sure to love it.

11 Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes - As like most of the deleted scene portions of any home video release, these scenes are an interesting watch if you're fan, but it's fairly obvious as to why they weren't included in the final cut. The film has a pretty nice flow to it overall, which is pretty impressive considering how many characters the film tries to keep tabs on. These additional scenes would have just gummed up the works and severely dragged the film down.

Grease on DVD Launch Party - I know, sounds pretty lame right? I was pretty surprised upon watching this featurette though. 15 minutes in length, we get Olivia Newton-John singing Hopelessly Devoted to You. After that John Travolta joins her for You're the One That I Want, and the rest of the cast joins them to sing Summer Nights. A DVD launch party sounds pretty lame, but this is more of a reunion really than a launch party, so don't miss this one!

Grease Memories from John and Olivia - This is also from the launch party, but this is a little disappointing as there's only 3 minutes of memories being shared here. I can't really blame this on the production of the extra, as the thoughts they share here are really just from a brief moment of time at a party, but there's really no reason why this couldn't have been included with the launch party featurette itself.

The Moves Behind the Music - Already hearing a great deal about the choreography in the commentary, this is more of a visual look at what goes into mapping out the film's dance moves.

Thunder Roadsters - A 5 minute featurette on the cars in the film, and why classic cars are just so wicked in general. It's not very interesting overall though, I would recommend skipping this one.

John Travolta and Allan Carr 'Grease Day' Interview/Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood 'Grease Day' Interview - Only 2 minutes in length a piece, these are a couple of pieces of interview footage from when Grease first hit the theaters. They're not really interesting in and of themselves, but seeing footage like this from 1978 is pretty sweet.

Also included on the Rockin' Rydell Blu-ray release are some photo galleries and the theatrical trailer. All in all the extras are plentiful and about as complete as you could possibly get for a film like Grease, and is sure to please anyone who's a fan. If you already own the Rockin' Rydell edition on DVD though, don't expect anything really new here that's going to blow your mind, as the features are all pretty much identical.


Overall

Grease is a staple in cinematic and musical history. Its timeless music and dance are wildly infectious. I don't care who you are, you're going to catch yourself singing a few of these songs under your breath the next day! The film isn't impressive in musical styling alone though. It does an impressive job of getting you to care about all the characters, and it does so without ever slowing the pace of the film. That's a fairly impressive feat for such a large cast, and the effectiveness in bringing their little worlds to life effectively bring the universe of Grease to reality.

If you've never seen the movie before now is certainly the time with its first ever release on a high definition format. For the rest of however, I still give a pretty strong recommended rating for this release. The extras and the film are worth the price of the Blu-ray alone, but the video and audio transfers are surely going to cause a lot of speculation amongst those that will only upgrade to Blu-ray for a truly impressive transfer. Unfortunately, I can't say that we get that with Grease, but there's still a noticeable enough improvement for the fans to hop aboard as soon as possible, especially for those that don't already own the DVD version of the Rockin' Rydell edition.
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