It was towards the end of the 1990s that I learned that “Grease 2” (1982) by Patricia Birch was cult.
Along with other theater majors, bad movie junkies, and Gen X contrarians, I kept meeting rational people who not only told me they loved “Grease 2,” but that they loved it. preferred to the 1978 original.
It first occurred to me that John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John’s adoration of ‘Grease’ (1978) was beginning to wane because of my own attendance at a ‘Grease’ themed slumber party. “to which I was invited. It was a dorm full of young women, all dressed in pajamas, and my buddy and I, both freshmen, were the only “cool enough” (rather naive enough) guys to attend.
Being single and hopelessly nerdy (and not hopelessly devoted to anyone at the time), I couldn’t believe my luck at being invited to such an occasion. It turned out to be a “Grease” viewing party, where the young women in attendance, all in pajamas, sang and recited every word anyone said in “Grease” for the entire 110-minute run.
My boyfriend and I were invited to the event because we were known to be theater people and singers. After 10 minutes of this I wanted to run screaming from the building, but I hung on. I never attended parties in this dorm again.
However, by coincidence, and shortly after that party, where I was traumatized by teenage girls singing “Brush-a-brush-a-brush-a” with Didi Conn in unison, I discovered that one of my closest friends knew all the words to “Cool Rider”, from the “Grease 2” soundtrack. In fact, he knew every song from that movie, which he shamelessly called his favorite musical.
It was not an isolated incident.
Now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of “Grease 2,” I suspect the response will be more of a welcome homecoming than the hall-of-shame response it received in its day.
The plot: It’s 1961, a new year at Rydell High, in which introverted Briton Michael (Maxwell Caulfield) goes after his classmate Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer). She’s a Pink Lady and a rebel who only wants to be with a “cool rider” who loves motorcycling; Michael goes quite far, as he adapts the personality of a fit cycling stud at night and still manages to be a high school student during the day.
Bruce Wayne has never had so much trouble.
“Grease 2” is like a disappointing high school class that takes pole position after a group of much-loved seniors graduate and walk away with legacy status forever intact. I didn’t think it was possible, but it’s all somehow more cheesy than the original.
A more or less similar twist that he doesn’t quite get away with: the teenagers are all played by adults who appear in their mid-30s.
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If “Grease” comes across as a complete parody of 50s/60s biker movies, Frankie & Annette beach movies, and fishing teen movies, then “Grease 2” is an exhaustive homage to “Grease.” It’s not just that Travolta and Newton-John left shoes too big for someone else to fill, but the question remains: Why go back to Rydell High if the coolest kids have all graduated? ?
Absent of its incredibly iconic former protagonists, “Grease 2” doubles down on the return of supporting players like Conn and Eve Arden…because when you think of high school, isn’t it the teachers you always remember with the most love?
“Grease 2” arrived a year after MTV was founded, which not only captured the zeitgeist of the world, changed the music industry and revolutionized musical shorts, but managed to make musicals look like traditional to dinosaurs.
The ’80s were largely a decade where non-traditional quasi-musicals, like “Purple Rain” (1984) and “True Stories” (1986) surfaced alongside MTV-branded dance musicals, like “Flashdance” (1983), “Footloose” (1984), “White Nights” (1985) and “Dirty Dancing” (1987).
Only the quirky “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986), a minor hit at best, managed to find an audience with its traditional presentation of song and dance in the classical musical sense.
Otherwise, “Grease 2” fell with the company of “Can’t Stop the Music” and “Xanadu,” both of which were released in 1980 and cited as the reason for the Golden Razzie Awards.
The freshness of “Grease” wasn’t the only issue for the sequel, as the nostalgia for the era was beginning to wear off at the time, as even “Happy Days” was in the ninth year of its run. eleven seasons.
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Although slightly less explicit than the original (fewer lyrics like “did she have a fight?”), the men here are still horny mongoloids. There’s even a musical number to it, featuring Tab Hunter and Connie Stevens, which is by far the most awkward and embarrassing sequence.
You can’t mention a “lube job” in a movie like this without it being kind of “Didja-get-it?” double meaning where the cast performs for the camera.
Caulfield speaks so softly that he seems too shy to carry his own film, while Pfeiffer exudes at least enough courage and presence to suggest the biggest and best roles in his near future.
While Pfeiffer rightfully found the post-Pink Ladies superstar, Caulfield solidified his cult status with April 8, “Rex Manning Day,” forever dedicated to his character’s name on “Empire Records” (1995). It’s worth mentioning that Pfeiffer performs many of her scenes wearing black sunglasses, a distancing effect that keeps her seemingly but not fully present during some of the cheesier numbers.
FAST FACT: “Grease” has grossed an incredible $190 million at the US box office since its debut in 1978, and that’s not including massive soundtrack sales. “Grease 2” only made $15 million four years later.
So why does 1980s “Speed 2: Cruise Control” have a fan base? Here are some possible reasons:
- The ubiquitous original is so consistently overplayed that it made the sequel feel refreshingly understated by default.
- Coming four years after the original, there’s a generation of kids who probably grew up on “Grease 2,” as the original felt “old” amid the MTV madness.
- Maybe former teen icon Tab Hunter singing about sex ed class has more appeal than former teen icon Frankie Avalon singing about beauty school?
- The hipsters liked Stephanie and Michael more than Danny and Sandy, if that’s even possible.
With regard to this last suggestion – the inversion of a young woman like the jacket wearing, trouble making rebel who stirs and transforms the innocent square is less convincing than the reverse, even if the concept is still an issue.
Instead of Travolta’s Danny inspiring Newton-John’s Sandy to become a bad girl, Pfeiffer’s Stephanie’s burning desire for a “cool rider” inspires Michael to become a mysterious motorcycle god (the fact that nobody knows him and that he only wears glasses and a helmet as his disguise, is stupid but irrelevant).
Either way, the notion is very academic, suggesting that conforming to a clique or persona that isn’t your own to find acceptance and true love. It’s as superficial as it gets.
Admittedly, the two “Grease” films are largely parodies of “High School Confidential” (1958), “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” (1965) and other empty-headed teeny-bopper films of that era, but repeating this conformity-the plot of finding acceptance is not only rotten but, sadly, influential, as so many high school comedies and dramas carry the same message.
I still find “Grease 2” to be a cringe-worthy and unfortunate sequel to one of the definitive musical blockbusters of my youth. Even the overrated but enjoyable “Staying Alive” (1983), an unlikely sequel to “Saturday Night Fever,” does the job better (and that one still had Travolta).
Still, I’m not trying to annoy “Grease 2” fans, whose cult following has been growing steadily for decades. Look, if going back to Rydell High, fainting over messages left in lockers, and not even seeing Kenickie and Rizzo is enough for you, then who am I to stand in the way of your happiness?
To quote the immortal lyrics of “Cool Rider”:
“For a cool pilot, a cool pilot,
If he’s cool enough, he can burn me through and through,
If it takes forever, then I’ll wait forever,
No ordinary boy, no ordinary boy is gonna do
I want a cool pilot who is cool.