Down from the Shelf ~ Grease 2

Stephanie Zinone: Not weird weird, but like exciting weird.

The Facts:
Synopsis: An English student at a 1960’s American high school has to prove himself to the leader of a girls’ gang whose members can only date greasers.

Stars: Maxwell Caulfield, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lorna Luft, Maureen Teefy, Alison Price, Pamela Adlon, Adrian Zmed, Didi Conn, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar

Rated: PG

Running Length: 115 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Director of Photography – Frank Stanley (Stanley was Clint Eastwood’s cameraman on several Dirty Harry films and also shot “10”)

TMMM Score: Unscorable* (* – It would be unfair to score this one out of the gate.  I’d give it a perfect score and then you won’t trust me.  Suffice it to say that I fully recognize this as a not “good” movie…but I can’t stop loving it)

Review:  It made total sense on paper, I’m sure.  Actually, come to think of it, I bet the Hollywood MadLibs card the outline was written on made sense.  What we have here is a classic example of Hollywood trying to reproduce a past success by re-tooling the original movie and calling it a sequel.  What I’m sure happened with Grease 2 was some executive at Paramount Pictures needed a new pool and decided to  go back to the wellspring of cash that Grease gave the studio and try for lightening to strike twice.  It’s not really that hard to imagine this film getting green lit pretty fast but when the pieces came together the end result not being what the studio (or critics or public) wanted.  It’s really too bad because while critically trashed and commercially ignored Grease 2 is not a poorly made film.  It’s just…um…misguided.  As someone who knows pretty much every line, costume piece, and aerobic dance move from the movie…I say that with love.

This may come as a shock but due to my poor adding skills I never even knew there was a Grease 1 until I finally saw it after about 20 or 30 viewings of Grease 2.  When I finally saw the movie that inspired it I remember thinking…this Olivia Newton-John character has got nothing on Michelle Pfeiffer.  And John Travolta?  Please?  Maxwell Caulfield will have a much longer career than him!  I just couldn’t get my head around why everyone loved the original Grease so much when an obviously more entertaining flick was right next to it at the local video store.

~ Side note: I rented Grease 2 so many times at Home Video that they had to BUY a new copy because I wore it out.  Sometimes I would return it, look around the video store and, finding nothing that suited me, check it out AGAIN.  I’m not joking when I say Home Video gave me a new copy of Grease 2 for my birthday one year.  Do you know how brave of them that was…they lost money by doing that…but they knew how much it meant to me.  Anyway, I digress.~

So the general plot synopsis above doesn’t even get to the meant of this story.  Young Michael Carrington (Sandy’s cousin from Australia) tries to woo Stephanie Zinone of the Pink Ladies by eventually figuring out he has to become a “Cool Rider” and ‘burn her through and through’.  It’s pretty sexy, actually.  Several subplots of the romances between other T-Bird greasers and Pink Lady lovelies provide some added eye rolls but the entire cast is so committed to the material without playing it like Ibsen that it’s hard not to just go along with the movie.  And I think that’s the key to someone enjoying this movie or not…you have to just accept that it’s an inferior sequel and take it all in.

My biggest joy of this movie is that it truly introduced Michelle Pfeiffer to Hollywood.  Not surprisingly, Pfeiffer got the best reviews of anyone when it was released and that her next film was the DePalma/Pacino Scarface should tell you something.  I can only imagine she looks back on her singing/dancing in Cool Rider and temporarily leaves her body from embarrassment – but I go into my happy zone when I see her climb that ladder.  She looks great and is perfect in the role.  It’s not her fault that Caulfield and her don’t have the best chemistry – but they were fresh faces and did look good together.  Another notable cast member was Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s daughter.  Playing a stereotypical bimbo I always enjoyed hearing her go from her airy speaking voice to husky beltress.

Special mention must be made regarding the songs…
Let’s Do It For Our Country – sung in a bomb shelter.  A T-Bird tries to get a Pink Lady to go “all the way” by having his buddy fake a bomb raid.  One of the lines (spoken) is actually ‘We can do it for…for…Disneyland.”

Reproduction – Say what you will about this classroom set song detailing a sex ed lesson (by Tab Hunter!) but I did silently sing this to myself for more than one exam in Health 101.

(Love Will Turn Back) The Hands of Time – a dream duet for Stephanie and the man (Michael) that she fears has died…by the way, this song happens in the middle of a talent show in front of a crowd of stunned audience members.

And the grand poomba…

Score Tonight – sung in a bowling alley.  “We’re going to rock, we’re going to roll, we’re going to bop, we’re going to bowl”.  Part of it is sung by “Kingpin Honey” T-Bird Johnny to Pink Lady Paulette who are reeeeeealy hot for each other.  All the dancing happens in the lanes of the bowling alley by a random assortment of people…including a few nuns.  My mom is a ritualistic bowler and I remember her being aghast that all these people where in the lanes… “Surely they would fall!”

At the end of the day, the movie works almost in spite of itself.  Like the first Grease, the message seems to be “change who you are if you want to get the man/woman of your dreams.”  Unlike the original, the film leaves us with the message that you don’t need to make a change – “All that you are, is all that I need, no more pretendin’ “ (and yes, she says ‘pretendin’).

I’m never embarrassed to admit that I love this movie and count it as one of my favorites.  It may not work for everyone but I find some nostalgia in it.  I still have that old VHS copy (plus the DVD, and the LP, cassette, and CD of the soundtrack) and revisit it every year or so.  It hasn’t lost its charm or its appeal to me.

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