The year is 1961, two years since Danny Zuko and Sandy have graduated, but Rydell High is still rockin – thanks to the new crop of Pink Ladies and T-Birds. Sandy’s very English cousin Michael Carrington is the new kid at Rydell and its love at first sight for Michael when he encounters Pink Lady Stephanie Zinone. But, will the T-Birds like some ‘brainy’ English boy getting fresh with one of the Pink Ladies, after all the T-Birds think they own the ladies and they have a ‘rep to keep.’ So the struggle for Michael begins as he has to prove himself to be cool enough to don leathers and ride a mean machine as he try’s to win over Stephanie’s heart.
A role reversal in the lead characters was perhaps the only twist thought over by the writer Ken Finkleman to churn out Grease 2 which not only failed to live up to its more successful predecessor but was also considered to be a critical and financial failure.
Thus we had the hero, Michael Carrington, a sober and polished English boy while the heroine is the bubble gum munching, crass, ‘punk’ite, Stephanie Zinone.’ So we have a plot wherein a chivalrous hero is trying to woo a boorish brat and in the bargain gets himself transformed into one of the gang members. This one line plot could have stood the ‘test of time,’ if it had been an independent movie, but as a sequel it had to be compared with its more famous prequel and that’s where it failed.
When compared to the original, the plot seemed too feeble and raised many questions, one among the many was, why would a chivalrous guy fall for a punk? Compared to the original, the music failed and most of songs seemed to be out of the place in the movie, they did not help carry the narration forward which usually is what songs do in a musical. Secondly, unlike in a musical where a character breaks into a song with the verses of the song expressing their feelings and justifying their tuneful out-burst, Grease 2 failed to justify.
Maxwell Caulfield who was considered to be the next Travolta or Richard Gere before the release of the film, but no studio was ready to touch him after the release of Grease 2, this despite the fact that he gave an apt performance and followed it with another good performance in ‘Boys Next Door.’ While Michelle Pfeiffer can be considered to be lucky as she had studio bosses queuing up to sign her, she followed ‘Grease 2’ with a gripping performance in ‘Scare Face.’
Though the movie was directed by the choreographer of original Grease, Patricia Birch; Grease 2 failed in the dance department too; The awkward steps given to actress Michelle Pfeiffer’s for the song ‘Cool Rider’ as she goes up and down the ladder in a painful way as well as her funny steps, something like a lame frog jumping, at the end of the song in the court yard. The other dance sequences, all of them seem to be labored and don’t come with as much ease as a dance would to people who are filled with love and passion.
At some point of the movie you may feel that director Patricia Birch and writer Ken Finkleman have probably sat together to spice up the movie with sexual suggestions. Some of the songs with sexual innuendos as much as the equally suggestive dance moves seemed to have been added to the movie just to spice it up and live up to the popularity of the Israeli teen movies, ‘Lemon Popsicle series’ which had become a rage across the world during the period. If Patricia had paid more attention to her own work instead of checking up on competition, it, Grease 2 would have turned out to be a better movie.
It is unfair to compare a movie with its original, but if it is a sequel it will get compared – after all it connects to the earlier one in more ways than one. Grease 2 could have been an average teen movie if it was not a sequel, in fact people would have liked it as much as they liked the ‘Lemon Popsicle series,’ it really is as simple as that.
The Indian Perspective:
Unlike in the US, Grease 2 can be considered to be a success in India. After the success of Grease in 1978 the Indian cinema screen was bombarded with teen flicks most of which did well, this included such blockbusters as Fast Times (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), the Lemon Popsicle trilogy (of course the dubbed in English version) and others. This, sort of created a niche for teen movies on the Indian screen and saw a couple of Bollywood flicks ‘inspired’ by Hollywood movies, however they were total disaster.
Released around the time of the year when most of the school and college students in India are preparing for their exams, its success was a big surprise. The success can be attributed to two actors in particular, Michelle Pfeiffer for her good looks and scandalous sex appeal and Adrian Zmed for his overdose of the cool quotient and his loud acting, not to forget the dance and song routine. It need not be mentioned that most of the Indian audience found the hero of the movie, Maxwell, but a cardboard character unable to emote to their expectations.
Grease 2 was more like a Bollywood flick than a Broadway presentation that the youth could relate to, including the out of the way, loud and garish dance and song routine. The very reason that an American would have disliked the movie during those times was its strong point among the Indian cine goers.