The “legendary” dance numbers are mostly intense posturings by the affable John Travolta playing Danny Zuko; as I’ve said elsewhere, he may be a dancer (at times he even moves like one), but director Randal Kleiser hardly ever allows us to even catch glimpse of his foot work; yes, Travolta’s body shifts and swerves, girls go flying through his legs, and his hands move with Egyptian precision as if he were a cool hipster, but a good imitator and a fast camera might achieve the same tricks. Australian-born Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsen has an appealingly fresh face and a pleasant voice, and Jeff Conaway as Kenickie at least has the look of the period down cold.
Oh, did I forget to tell you the story? Boy meets girl and falls in love. Unfortunately, the new girl in town, an outsider from another country, discovers herself, after her splendiferously romantic summer, with the boy, attending the same Los Angeles school (much of it actually filmed in Venice High School) which he attends, and wherein he behaves completely differently, attempting to fit into the hipper hometown patterns of behavior. The poor girl feels betrayed, dismayed. But she soon discovers that there is no one way of behaving, especially in this big city of multiple realities. Even the conventionally rebellious Pink Ladies eventually accept her. By movie’s end the girl finds her own way of attracting the boy, “going bad”—as one of the potential Sandys, Marie Osmond, interpreted it—which merely consists of being sewn into a black leather body suit and shouting out “You’re the One That I Love!” Girl gets boy and everyone lives happily ever after. Rise up from the grave, Sandra Dee, all is forgiven!