“I want a whole lot more than the boy next door. I want hell on wheels.”
Grease 2, 1982 (Michelle Pfeiffer, Maxwell Caulfield) Paramount Pictures
Did we really need a Grease 2? Was there a frenzied demand for a sequel to a stand-alone adaptation of a popular Broadway musical? Would any answer placate money-mad producers Robert Stigwood, Allan Carr, and Paramount Pictures? The original Grease movie profited from a creative coup of casting John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and securing John Farrar to add a couple of hit songs to the already top-heavy soundtrack. While Didi Conn, Sid Caesar, Dody Goodman, and Eve Arden reprise their roles from Grease, most of the cast is missing. Tab Hunter, Connie Stevens, and Lorna Luft fill out the supporting cast, and newcomers Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield headline the sequel.
Grease choreographer Patricia Birch directs the movie like a great train wreck. Seriously. This movie is an absolute mess. The insanely good-looking Michael Carrington (Caulfield) arrives from England for his first day at Rydell High School. Apparently he’s Sandy’s (from the first movie) cousin. I thought Sandy was Australian, but nevermind. I guess their family is composed of hot nerds. There’s a kind of role-reversal thing going on here. You see, Michael is the goody-two-shoes, and Stephanie (Pfeiffer) is the bad girl and current leader of the Pink Ladies. I was puzzled as to the hierarchy of the school gangs, but my wife surmised the gangs probably contain at least one freshman or sophomore to carry on the mantle after the others have graduated. It makes sense.
Carrington gets in good with the T-Birds (led this time by Adrian Zmed) by doing their homework for them and becomes instantly smitten with Stephanie, who dashes his hopes by revealing her desire for a “Cool Rider” (evidently a motorcycle enthusiast). It’s good to have goals. Carrington buys a motorcycle and takes riding lessons and, for a time, we’re witness to a superhero origin story until he fakes his own death at “Dead Man’s Curve.” When the T-Birds’ rivals, the Cycle Lords, crash the luau-themed graduation party, the Cool Rider reappears (in a Clint Eastwood-style resurrection bit) to save the day. For some reason, we’ve switched from hot rods to bikes in Grease 2.
Michael reveals his true identity to Stephanie (I don’t know how she didn’t know) and they ride off into the sunset. In the first Grease movie, both characters try to change in order to conform to their respective lover’s wishes. Here it’s only the guy. Stephanie doesn’t change for anyone! Birch’s direction is lazy and shockingly uninspired, but she tries to make up for it with overly-choreographed set pieces and dance numbers. Both Pfeiffer and Caulfield can carry a tune, but they lack the magic and chemistry of Travolta and Newton-John. There are no conspiracies to be disseminated in Grease 2, except perhaps Allan Carr’s $5 million payday from Paramount for providing a sequel within three years of the original movie’s release. Produced on double the budget of Grease, the sequel flopped miserably when it was released in 1982, but it did play in heavy rotation on HBO.