Joe Keohane

Give us a real sing-along

By Joe Keohane
July 18, 2010

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LAST WEEK, Paramount Pictures released “Grease: Sing-A-Long’’: a new theatrical print of the 1978 camp classic complete with subtitles during the song-and-dance sequences. It’s been doing gangbusters in limited release so far, with hordes of people showing up to theaters in full “Grease’’ regalia and singing along. The impetus behind the idea is mainly that young people have a lot of disposable income, and they’re not spending it in movie theaters anymore because they’re so fidgety and distracted that sitting quietly in the dark for two hours may cause sudden hair-loss or fatal apoplexy. Paramount is betting that creating a more “interactive’’ moviegoing experience is just the thing: Get them in, sell them a cubic yard of Sno-Caps, let them caterwaul at the screen for two hours with impunity, flush them out, count the money.

Movie sing-alongs are hardly new, but this is the first time a massive corporate entity has gotten into the game. It goes without saying, then, that the result is more structured and less fun than it could be. Paramount layered the sound of a fake audience singing along to the film on the soundtrack to eliminate the possibility of awkward silence, and it rewrote some of the lyrics in “Grease’’ for the new release, presumably out of fear that the mild crudity of the original would be deemed déclassé by more refined modern audiences. This defeats the point of “Grease,’’ the appeal of which is that it always seems a bit raunchier than you remember, though it does facilitate the film’s entry into Saudi Arabia.

Undoubtedly Hollywood is monitoring Paramount’s success, and coming up with ways not just to replicate it, but replicate it sloppily and then run it into the ground, like it is doing at present with 3-D. It would be a shame to see that happen, unless the studios had the guts to drop “8 Mile: Sing-A-Long,’’ as opposed to “Alvin & The Chipmunks 7: Sing-A-Long,’’ on audiences, which they don’t.

In the meantime, one can only hope that enterprising teenagers take this as an opportunity to subvert Paramount by recovering the bowdlerized material and singing it at top volume until the beast is slain. Or better yet, come up with a whole new set of lyrics with a raunchiness surpassing the original, print them out, distribute them to peers on the way on, and let loose. The kids from “Grease’’ would no doubt approve.

Joe Keohane is a writer in New York City.

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