Review of Grease 2
By: Jenna Sparks

Two years after 1978's release of Grease came its sequel, the imaginatively named Grease 2. I talk about my love of Grease 2 quite often and when it came time to do my review this month, I could think of nothing better than to address why it is a movie so much better than the credit it's received (which was not much). Perhaps I can shed some light as to why Grease 2 is, if not the superior of the Grease films, at least a great follow-up. It's the review you never knew you needed in your life.

In Grease 2, we trade hot rods for motorcycles but maintain the campiness of its predecessor as well as the catchy songs, actors in their late 20s playing teenagers, and the teenage hormonal outbursts that paved the way for Riverdale, all of which I plan to explore in depth in what surely will award me the prestige of being invited to give a live-streamed TedTalk in the near future, or, at the minimum, initiate world peace.

We open with an introspective take regarding the trials of a new schoolyear. The number questions mortality and the balance of life while simultaneously exploring the ideas of public education's curriculum as an act of war on impressionable youth. While the song implies the atrocities of one's academic career, it's worth noting that everyone in the scene is extraordinarily lively at an hour they are singing about hating. We are introduced the new Pink Ladies (Stephanie Zinone, Paulette, Sharon, Rhonda, and Paulette's little sister, Dolores) who are proving themselves to be the top cats in their school's hierarchy by nearly mowing down choreographed students in the parking lot. We also meet the new T-Birds (Johnny Nogerelli, DiMucci, Goose, and Davey) and Michael Carrington, Sandy's British cousin, and new transfer. Familiar faces also crop up, including Frenchie, there to greet Michael.

Michael (Maxwell Caulfield) is the unassuming, charming, and polite new kid and Stephanie is the rebellious and brash leading lady. The dynamics of everyone's roles are imposed as we soon discover Johnny (Adrian Zmed), and Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer) were previously in a relationship. Paulette is pining for Johnny, and Johnny's not quite over Stephanie. Strap in, kids.

Another familiar face comes in the form of Leo Balmudo, now the leader of the Cycle Lords. He returns several years later to further strike fear into the hearts of teenagers and present himself as an antagonist, going so far as to riding his bike around the Rydell track.

The movie kicks into gear as we phase into a scene with the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds bowling. I'm not going to procure an entire thesis regarding this scene and that it is musical cinema gold, but hear me out: to introduce the number, Paulette gets a strike after gently nudging her ball down the lane. Hashtag girlboss! Then it begins. Not only is the song catchy but filled with funny innuendos. It is five minutes devoted to "scoring", all performed besides a group of nuns. If you find me staring into nothingness, this is the song playing on loop. Adrian Zmed (Johnny) steals the scene. His vocals are astounding (the wail he lets loose as he slides the length of the lane!) and he's a powerhouse of energy. The choreography is mind-blowing, and the costumes are fantastic. The icing on the cake is a montage of various couples spinning at high speeds while Paulette (played by Lorna Luft) (who's peppery voice is gorgeous) and Johnny duet. Seriously, the scene is so much fun and the energy is so contagious.

After the number, Johnny proves himself to be a cretin as he uses Paulette in a pitiful attempt to make Stephanie jealous, leaving Paulette livid. Irate, Stephanie decides to take a stand against Johnny ("I can kiss who I want when I want,") and finds herself lip-locked with Michael, who had just entered the establishment to make some friends. The ordeal causes tension, but it doesn't stop Michael from asking Stephanie out a few days later. He shoots his shot only to be rejected for the first time. We segue into the next number about why Stephanie won't date a square like Michael, eye-choreography unparalleled because it's Michelle Pfeiffer. And if you really want to know what she wants in a guy, she's looking for a dream on a mean machine with hell in his eyes. She wants a devil in skintight leather and he's going to be wild as the wind. And one fine night, she'll be holding on tight to a cool rider. And if he's cool enough, he can burn her through and through, she wants a rider through and through. If it takes forever, she'll wait forever. No ordinary boy is going to do. She wants a rider that's cool. That's the way it's going to be and the way it is. She wants a whole lot more than the boy next door; she wants hell on wheels. Just give her black motorcycle with a boy growing out of the seat then move aside because she's going to ride with a cool rider. (When my husband got his motorcycle, you can bet your butt he got an earful of this song regularly.) After Stephanie straddles a ladder and dances with props from the theater department, Michael decides he will become said cool rider. Funding his operation is the T-Birds, paying him to do their homework (in his uncle's nuclear fallout shelter, no less).

The next number is so unnecessarily riddled with puns and more innuendos and more efficient at delivering sexual education than most modern public high schools. We really get into the science of heterosexual reproduction by way of the birds and bees. It is both hilarious and jarring as the song tackles subjects of consent, fulfillment, autonomy, and "mental-stration", conversations we're still having today. Its just so absurd and ridiculous that it's hard not to enjoy.

We return to the story and discover Michael acquiring a bike to fix-up, followed by several montages set to dreamy versions of Cool Rider. It takes months, but after practice, he's pretty good on the bike. Meanwhile, the school is preparing for its annual talent show featuring the Pink Ladies singing of the seasons and the T-Birds' pro-sex-work song, Prowlin'.

Because Balmudo has nothing better to do than harass teenagers, he shows up to the bowling alley wherein the T-Birds confront him under the guise that he's alone. But alas, Balmudo's Cycle Lords arrive, and the T-Birds hilariously fumble to escape back into the bowling alley. Before they can get away, a mysterious man on a motorcycle lurches through the Cycle Lords, inciting the group. Those inside the bowling alley watch on and we break into the next number, "Who's the Guy?"

The scene is just cool. The music is tense and the ambient roar of the bikes as the Lone Rider and MC tear around each other serves as a rich atmosphere with the onlookers singing "whooooooo" as a choir. There are stunning shots of dancers atop cars and the bikes posed and it just plays out as a beautifully mapped scene. The Lone Rider is revealed to be Michael, hidden beneath leather and goggles, and there are some nice motorcycle stunts that occur and if audiences can accept the end of Grease, we can accept that square Michael learned stunt-riding in a matter of months, okay? By the end of the scene, Stephanie is enamored with the mysterious biker as he lights a cigarette for her and quipping, "Want a ride?" just before police arrive and he makes his daring escape, jumping over a police vehicle without a ramp (there was totally a ramp).

In a scene that really did not age well, let alone does nothing for the plot, we jump into a number between Pink Lady Sharon and T-Bird DiMucci wherein DiMucci tries to pressure Sharon into doing "it" in Michael's uncle's fallout shelter out of fear of an impending nuclear war (it's the '60's). Following Sharon proclaiming she'd like to leave; he gets her on board with the idea of "doing it for our country". With lyrics like, "It'd be like we were doing it for the Statue of Liberty, or doing it for the Grand Canyon, or doing it for the New York Yankees, it'd be like we're doing it for Disneyland!" as DiMucci undresses Sharon and she wraps bandages around his imaginary wounds. More disturbingly, it seems like the whole time, Sharon had no idea they were talking about anything other than joining the war effort and rushes out.

Later, while at work at a garage/gas station, Stephanie finds herself facing the Lone Rider, who then invites her for a ride. She blows off work and hops on the bike. It's kind of romantic, honestly, until Stephanie wants to roleplay as a daredevil and sidles around the biker until she's facing him ON A MOVING BIKE. The encounter, though, is sweet and earnest, and they return to the garage that night. The Lone Rider is about to reveal his identity, but the T-Birds show up with the Pink Ladies in tow. He tells her he'll see her Friday, before the talent show, and flees. Johnny digs himself a hole as he confronts Stephanie regarding her new beau, insulting Paulette, and causing all the girls to leave the boys in their shame. The T-Birds then go into the aforementioned Prowlin', this time more refined, and I can only assume it's about brothels? Was 'grocery store' slang for something in '60's?

Back at school, Stephanie takes Michael up on his offer as a tutor as she's failing English. The pair go for a study date, and it's a heartfelt scene where Stephanie opens up about the Lone Rider, admitting to Michael that perhaps the fantasy is better than the reality. Michael challenges the idea and asks her out once more. Stephanie explains the code of the Pink Ladies and T-Birds, ultimately rejecting Michael once more.

The night of the talent show arrives and holy crap, we are in it now. The Lone Rider arrives to greet Stephanie, only to be chased off by the T-Birds. A chase ensues and Stephanie jumps in the car with the Pink Ladies to follow the pursuit. The Lone Rider approaches the perilously named Dead Man's Curve and jumps a gigantic gap. As the T-Birds pursue, they discover the curve may have proven deadly for the Lone Rider. Stephanie is convinced he's dead, while everyone else seems to believe he probably made the jump.

They return to the talent show, and after a scene of Paulette standing up for herself against Johnny's dominating and controlling attitude, we start the show with the Calendar Girls singing Girl for all Seasons. Johnny has clearly learned his lesson and supports Paulette from the side of the stage while she sings of summer. Finally, Stephanie takes the stage, a complete mess, dressed as a Christmas tree. She absolutely loses it up there, recalling the trauma from like, 45 minutes prior of discovering someone she was attached to might be dead. She breaks into a fantasized ballad where she and the Lone Rider duet in motorcycle heaven. He stands atop a pile of white bikes in a silver leather suit. In an interval of the song, Stephanie and he profess their love for one another, and he tells her not to forget him. Fun fact: it's thought teenagers feel love more intensely than adults. So, is it needlessly dramatic? Unfathomably. It is absolutely campy and cheesy? In the most perfect of ways.

Stephanie and Johnny win the boys' and girls' division of the talent show and are crowned King and Queen of the Lani Kai Lani Luau at the end of the school year. A huge number declaring the arrival of summer boasts more gigantic, choreographed dances, quotes from JFK, some cultural appropriation, half-naked men escorting teenagers, all of which I'm assuming were the norms of life in the '60's. Eventually, the Cycle Lords infiltrate the luau, tearing through the festivities. But low and behold, it's HIM! The Lone Rider appears atop a roof and leaps onto his bike (where did it come from?). He defeats the Cycle Lords by making a large jump and revealing himself to be Michael. Everyone is stunned, most of all Stephanie. Johnny snaps his fingers and passes a T-Bird jacket to Michael, who then shares a loud, spit-filled kiss with Stephanie. We fade into another ballad of both Stephanie and Michael expressing what they've learned about themselves and each other, everyone graduates, and fade to black.

"Jenna," you might be saying to yourself, "I do not care about this recount. I'm not convinced!" To which I say, fine, but I'll still adamantly defend the catchiness of the songs, the wardrobe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Adrian Zmed, the dance routines, and the comedy.

The humor is so silly and slapstick it's hard not to laugh. The innuendos are eyebrow raising and alarmingly goofy, and it's an immature heap of confusion at times. But it's a fun time. Adrian Zmed has impeccable timing and great physical comedy. And I think most would agree that the messaging of Grease was never great. Changing yourself completely (change, not enrich or evolve) to impress someone is pretty messed up. Michael and Stephanie didn't change, they evolved. Stephanie admired Michael's, not the Lone Rider's, intelligence, and humor while Michael loved Stephanie for all she was. He bought a motorcycle using his skills to learn a new skill, and sure, it was to gain the attention of a girl who was clear about having some strange and shallow standards, but it never made him change who he was. When he was Michael, he loosened up a little bit by wearing cuffed jeans and rolled up his sleeves. But the entire final ballad was about how they accepted each other as they were. It just took some instigation for Stephanie to realize that Michael was always a dreamboat. While the movie has a few awkward scenes (Let's Do it for Our Country *cough cough*) with ill-informed messages, at its core, it was a significant improvement.

And you can't deny the vocals. Again, just take a moment to really appreciate Adrian Zmed and Lorna Luft's WILDLY fantastic voices that never fail to steal the show. Much like Grease, it's a silly, goofy movie that deserves far more credit, as stated at the beginning of this review. The film was directed by the choreographer of Grease and it shows. The dance numbers are just glorious and respectable and a delight. While yes, there are some peculiar aspects regarding the plot (what were teenagers like the '60's? Why did no one call the cops about someone who might be dead?), it's easy enough to move past and enjoy the silliness.

I hope you'll take my arguments and give yourself a chance to enjoy Grease 2 with an open mind. With that, I am absolutely giving Grease 2 5 out of 5 stars! Do with that what you will, as well as knowing the film can be streamed on Amazing Prime.

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