Release Date(s)1982 (June 7, 2022)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: F
Grease was a phenomenal hit, benefiting from great music and the emerging star power of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. A sequel was inevitable, and Grease 2 hit theater screens in 1982.
The plot—what there is of it—is a retread of the original film with one major difference. The girl is the rebel, the boy is a nerd. The girl is Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer), a member of the T-Birds biker gang’s female auxiliary, the Pink Ladies. Tired of her relationship with top T-Bird Johnny Nogarelli (Adrian Zmed), she breaks up with him and soon catches the eye of new Australian exchange student Michael Patterson (Maxwell Caulfield), who is also a cousin of Sandy (from the original). Hoping to win her over, Michael, who stands out among the leather-jacketed greasers like a golf ball in a carton of eggs, tries to transform himself into a guy Stephanie will notice.
Director Patricia Birch, who did the choreography for the original Grease, shows off her strengths in the first number, Back to School Again, in which scores of high schoolers converge on Rydell High, more eager than any kid ever was to get back to the classroom in September. The dancers pirouette, leap, form geometric patterns, and bound about as the major characters are introduced. The number is exciting and promises a fun-filled, tuneful movie to follow.
Unfortunately, this never happens. Birch keeps the pace brisk, slotting in a new song every few minutes, but the results vary. A number called Reproduction, performed in biology class by Mr. Stuart (Tab Hunter) and a class of students who already know enough about the birds and the bees to become excited by the subject matter, gets the class rocking to the mildly suggestive lyrics. The cleverest number in the film is Score Tonight, which takes place in a bowling alley and involves spirited dancing on the lanes as guys and gals roll the balls and knock down the pins in perfect sync with the beat. The double entendre of the title gives the number an edge.
Characters returning from the original film include Principal McGee (Eve Arden), her ditsy secretary Blanche (Dody Goodman), Frenchy (Didi Conn), Coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar), and class nerd Eugene (Eddie Deepen). In addition to Hunter’s Mr. Stuart, Connie Stevens joins the cast as sexy drama teacher Miss Mason, who’s in charge of putting together the school’s talent show, and Lorna Luft as Paulette, channeling Marilyn Monroe’s sultriness as the Pink Lady gang member trying to emulate that famous actress.
The time period has been moved forward a few years to 1961, but everyone who lived through the 1950s knows that they didn’t end, unofficially, until 1963, when the Beatles came on the scene. The film strives to include as many elements as possible from the original in the hope of duplicating its success. The Cool Rider number is a pale attempt to re-create the excitement of Greased Lightning, and the final song, We’ll Be Together, is a dirge-like lament, and a far cry from the upbeat We Go Together in Grease.
Michelle Pfeiffer projects charisma and sings nicely, but her screen chemistry with Caulfield is dismal. Apart from looking like a human Ken doll, he’s stiff and never loosens up as the script demands. To have Stephanie notice him, Ken teaches himself how to do stunts on a motorcycle and turns up at strategic moments in a mask and helmet (the mask allows for a stunt double to fill in). Zmed’s Nogarelli is a comic villain of sorts. Jealous of newcomer Michael, he tries to rekindle his romance with Stephanie but encounters lots of obstacles along the way. Zmed looks cool in his all-black greaser costume and is more than capable of delivering his songs.
Though Grease 2 has energy to spare, the overall film never captures the nostalgic fun of the original. It seems like a corporate attempt to milk dollars from the audience that flocked to its predecessor. Like the original, the film is episodic, with the slightest thread of a plot running through. This allows for plenty of chances to showcase songs at a talent show, in a science class, at a bowling alley, at a luau-themed party, and at a graduation. The new songs, by a number of different composers and lyricists, don’t hold up well, with most relying on a key lyric to establish a theme for a production number. Only Back to School Again made it to the pop charts in a recording by The Four Tops.
Grease 2 was shot by director of photography Frank Stanley on 35 mm film with Panavision cameras and lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (also blown up for 70 mm releases in the aspect ratio of 2.20:1). Paramount’s new Steelbook Blu-ray release offers excellent clarity and contrast. Images are strong, with details nicely delineated. The color palette is bright, with the Pink Ladies’ jackets and their Studebaker automobile a loud, shocking pink. The Rydell colors—red and white—are evident on cheerleader outfits and football jerseys. A school talent show features an extravaganza of rainbow hues. In contrast, the T-Birds are dressed in black, setting them off from the general school student body. Vintage 50s automobiles, such as Chevy Bel-Airs, Buick Roadmasters, Plymouth Belvederes, and Ford Fairlanes, are in bold primary colors, some two-tone. Michelle Pfeiffer’s song Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time contains a dreamlike fantasy sequence in which she and Caulfied, both dressed in white and shimmery silver, cavort amid clouds of smoke. A few close-ups of Zmed and other T-Birds on moving motorcycles are filmed in the studio with a projected background to suggest the actors are really in motion.
The English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is best appreciated in the musical numbers, which feature solos, choruses, duets, and ballads, though a few songs have an echo-y quality. Dialogue is clear and distinct throughout. Sound effects include the roaring of motorcycle engines and bowling balls rolling down lanes and hitting pins. Principal McGee’s unintentionally funny PA announcements are heard amid ambient sounds of classroom chatter. The disc’s sound level is lower than usual, but that’s easily corrected by raising the volume a bit. Additional audio track options include English Audio Description and German 2.0, Spanish (Spain) Mono, Spanish (Latin America) Mono, French 2.0, Italian Mono, Japanese Mono, and Portuguese (Brazil) 2.0 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles include English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, German, Greek, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), French, Icelandic, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Slovakian, Finnish, Thai, and Turkish.
Paramount presents the 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray of Grease 2 in Steelbook packaging. A Digital Code is included on a paper insert, but no extras have been included.
A gender-flipped duplication of its predecessor, Grease 2 fails to capture the spirit and fun of the original and suffers from leads who have dull on-screen chemistry. With unmemorable songs, the film is interesting today primarily as an early showcase for Michelle Pfeiffer.
- Dennis Seuling