This will forever brand me as a totally irredeemable dork, but one of my favorite movies ever is Grease. I know, I know. It's cheesy. But it's fun-cheesy, and it always reminds me of long, hot summer days (and oh, those summer nights ...) spent reenacting scenes from Grease with appropriately decked-out Barbie dolls with my best friend. We'd have the Grease soundtrack playing on her rickety, battery-operated Holly Hobbie record player, which we'd sing along with full blast. The big battle, of course, was over who would get to be Sandy and who would have to be Danny. I usually won this battle, because my friend had a lower voice that was (or so I ruthlessly convinced her) far better suited toward the role of Danny Zuko than my own soprano. Grease was, hands-down, one of the favorite films of my pre-adolescence.
Whenever Grease comes on TV -- or, better still, plays at an outdoor cinema on a steamy summer night -- I just can't resist. Sure, at 30, Olivia Newton-John was a little old to be playing a high-school student opposite John Travolta, who was pushing the limits of believability himself at 24 (though not quite as much as supporting cast members Jeff Conaway, who was 28, and Stockard Channing as Rizzo, who was the ripe old age of 34). The role of greaser Danny Zuko didn't really require Travolta to stretch his acting wings too much; it was basically the same character he played on Welcome Back Kotter, only set in the 1950's. Newton-John was cute and chirpy and ... Australian, which seemed very exotic to a 10-year-old who had rarely stepped foot out of Oklahoma. Travolta was all buff back in the day, and he wore those tight-fitting t-shirts that gave me my first quiver of pre-teen lust. And Rizzo? I wanted to be Rizzo, hell yeah. Rizzo smoked, she drank, she cursed like a sailor, and generally did whatever she wanted to. I was a good Catholic girl, and Rizzo became my inner bad girl. To this day I blame Grease and Rizzo for the 10-year smoking habit I started a few years later.
And then there were the songs: "Grease", "Summer Nights", "Greased Lightning", and the big closer, "You're the One That I Want". Okay, admittedly, my grown-up feminist-liberal self has some issues with Sandy giving up her own personality to become a bad girl, all for the sake of a boy, but when I was 10? I thought the ending rocked. Sandy got cool! She smoked and wore tight pants and high heels! Yeah, I know. These days, I'd rather see Sandy tell Danny to grow up or piss off; she could still let her inner bad girl out, I just want it to be for herself, not a boy. Or, better yet, what if Sandy discovered she was a lesbian, and she and Rizzo dumped the loser boyfriends and went off into the sunset in the cool car together? Picture Rizzo singing "I got chills, they're multiplying ...." -- it could work, no?
The last time I watched Grease, I played the "what if they remade this today" game. Who would "they" cast in a Grease remake? Hilary Duff as Sandy? Lindsay Lohan as Rizzo? And hey, how about Gael Garcia Bernal as Danny? He may not be able to sing, but he'd look mighty fine in a tight white t and leather jacket. I'm just saying.