Grease 2 [DVD]
Director : Patricia Brich
Screenplay : Ken Finkleman
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 1982
Stars : Maxwell Caulfield (Michael Carrington), Michelle Pfeiffer (Stephanie Zinone), Lorna Luft (Paulette Rebchuck), Maureen Teefy (Sharon Cooper), Alison Price (Rhonda Ritter), Pamela Segall (Dolores Rebchuck), Adrian Zmed (Johnny Nogerelli), Peter Frechette (Louis DiMucci), Christopher McDonald (Goose McKenzie), Leif Green (Davey Jaworski), Didi Conn (Frenchy), Eve Arden (Principal McGee), Sid Caesar (Coach Calhoun), Dody Goodman (Blanche Hodel), Tab Hunter (Mr. Stuart), Dick Patterson (Mr. Spears), Connie Stevens (Miss Mason), Eddie Deezen (Eugene)
There was a time when I might have tried to mount a vigorous defense for Grease 2, arguing that it is not nearly as bad as it is often made out to be. Following the original Grease, a Broadway hit and the most successful movie musical of all time, how could Grease 2 be anything but a disappointment? It lacked the star power of then-red-hot John Travolta, the chance to exploit a cultural moment in which the dour 1970s were giving way to the more upbeat 1980s, and the advantage of already popular musical numbers that played with the conventions of both ’50s rock’n’roll and show tunes. Hindsight shows that Grease 2 was bound to fail, and it did, both commercially and critically.
And, watching it again after a break of many years (I had seen it countless times as a child when it was on heavy rotation on cable), I realize that, pound for pound, Grease 2 is a bad movie that really doesn’t deserve much of a defense. There are moments in it that are so cringeworthy, one might think they were the reason fast-forward buttons were included on VCRs. The plot itself, hatched by sequel-happy screenwriter Ken Finkleman (the same year he wrote and directed Airplane II: The Sequel), is little more than a gender-reversal revision of the first movie, with a straight-laced guy pining away for a bad girl instead of the other way around. Motorcycle fetish replaces car fetish, JFK is in the White House instead of Eisenhower, but so much is still the same, right down to the T-Birds’ leather jackets and the Pink Ladies’ appropriately colored Ford junker.
In this sense, Grease 2 is not so much a sequel as it is a rehash. The setting is again Rydell High, and the year is now 1961. Then-newcomer Maxwell Caulfield plays Michael Carrington, a hunk in geek’s clothing parading as a brainy British exchange student who happens to be the cousin of Sandy, Olivia Newton-John’s character from the first film. He immediately falls in love with Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer, in her first starring role), the leader of the Pink Ladies. Unfortunately for Michael, the Pink Ladies can only be the “chicks” of the T-Birds, led by Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed, who played the Danny role in Grease on-stage).
But, Michael’s real obstacle is Stephanie’s insistence that she can only fall for a “cool rider,” a mysterious bad boy who rides a mean motorcycle. So, what’s a nerd to do but write a lot of papers for cash, buy a motorcycle, rebuild it, teach himself to ride better than anyone else in town, don a helmet and goggles so no one can guess his identity, and then woo Stephanie with his mysterious charm and motor-cross skills? That is exactly what he does, and the ludicrousness of no one recognizing Michael behind a pair of red-tinted goggles is better left for other reviewers that truly hate the movie.
Granted, Grease 2 has its problems, many of which are apparent in just recounting the plot summary. Yet, it has moment of real energy and comic inspiration (particularly the creative use of sexual double-entendres), even if those are intermittent and often bookended by scenes that make you embarrassed to be watching. The movie starts out on a great note, opening with the always-amusing and well-intentioned Principal McGee (Eve Arden) and her dotty secretary Blanche (Dody Goodman) and then kicking into the high-spirited opening number “Back to School,” sung by the Four Tops.
The movie continues on well enough, introducing all the new characters and throwing in cultural references to Jackie Kennedy, American Bandstand, and nuclear fallout shelters, along with the inspired casting of former teen heartthrob Tab Hunter as the dorky substitute teacher Mr. Stewart (although, truth be told, John Waters made much better ironic use of Hunter the year before as Divine’s love interest in Polyester). There are a few giddy-fun musical numbers, including the bowling/sex-themed “Score Tonight” and the hilarious “Reproduction,” which sums up everything one needs to know about the connections between pollination and lovemaking. And, of course, there’s always “Do It For Our Country,” in which the horny T-Bird Louis Di Mucci (Peter Frechette) sets new standards in deception for the sake of getting laid by convincing his girlfriend Sharon (Maureen Teefy) that the country is in the middle of a nuclear war.
But, all throughout, the movie trips over itself, especially when it tries to turn dramatic. This was something of a hiccup in the original film, as well, but nowhere does it approach the awfulness of the sentimental pap in Grease 2’s most maudlin musical numbers. These include “Charades,” Michael’s drippy ode to his own deception, and Stephanie’s bizarro fantasy ballad “(Love Will) Turn Back the Hands of Time,” in which she imagines herself in a smoky-white heaven with her possibly dead motorcycle-riding lover (it’s not surprising that the same composer, Louis St. Louis, penned both tunes). It’s enough to make anyone want to turn back the hands of the time and go see another movie.
Yet, for all its weaknesses (or perhaps because of them), Grease 2 goes down as one of the great guilty pleasures, a movie many people enjoy with ebullient shame, but few will admit to ever having seen. The fact that, in 1998, the Yale Cabaret, a small theater run by students from the Yale School of Drama, produced a stage version of Grease 2 is a sign of either the impending apocalypse or that this goofy, misguided sequel might finally be getting some of the belated respect it (sort of) deserves.
|Grease 2 DVD|
|Distributor||Paramount Home Video|
|Release Date||June 10, 2003|
| 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)|
Presented for the first time on home video in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Grease 2 looks surprisingly good given its age and the way in which it has been largely ignored since its original release. With the correct aspect ratio restored, we can gain a much better appreciation for Patricia Birch’s lively choreography, which is well-rendered by this transfer. Colors looks good, although a tad faded in some scenes, and the image is quite clear and well-defined. Only a few of the darker sequences appear a bit grainy, but nothing particularly distracting.
| English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround |
English Dolby 2.0 Surround
The soundtrack has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 surround with somewhat mixed results. The music is nicely spaced out among the five speakers, but the overall mix seems somewhat center-heavy, with the song lyrics overwhelming the music at times.
| What … no extras? No running audio commentary, retrospective documentaries, interviews … nothing? Obviously, Paramount is holding out for a “Special Collector’s Edition” sometime in the future … |
© 2003 James Kendrick