This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I chose “Grease 2.”
The Movie: “Grease 2” (1982)
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Maxwell Caulfield, Lorna Luft
Director: Patricia Birch
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) 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.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 32 percent
Froemming: This week at the JOE-DOWN, I decided to knock out a genre of film that we haven’t tackled thus far: A musical. Not just any musical, but a sequel to a well-regarded one that gave rise to John Travolta’s superstardom, putting forth his destiny to one day star in a film about a mechanical bull.
Yes, I am talking about “Grease 2,” a film that stars a young Michelle Pfeiffer just a year prior to her role in “Scarface” — a conversation piece that has caused heated debate as to which film soared her to fame and, eventually, Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns.”
“Grease 2” continues the dancing, singing and youthful rebellion from the first (I imagine, I have never seen the first “Grease” film). It features songs about youth, rebellion, lust and bowling. But before I get too far ahead of myself, Brown, what was your first impression on this shared musical journey of ours?
Brown: Well, I have not seen the original “Grease” in ages, and while I don’t hate musicals, it’s not a genre of film that I actively seek out.
After watching “Grease 2,” I understand why. Because when a musical is bad, it fails at an almost monumental level. Because, man, this was a hard one to sit through. And as I’m sure we’ll discuss, some of the songs were just mental.
Froemming: It is now 1961, two years after the events of the first film, and we are introduced to Cold War paranoia and a new class of T-Birds and Pink Ladies, as well as students way too excited to be going back to school. Because there is no way in hell any high school student would dance and sing about their excitement to go back to classes.
Brown: Singing and dancing to start the school year didn’t bug me as much as it should have. What did was the introduction of the Pink Ladies, which park their obnoxious pink car in front of the school in a no-parking zone. Hey ladies, school bus drivers are trying to do their job and drop kids off at school, and you’re so self-important that you have to put your automobile right in front? I know I’m a square complaining about this, but I hope someone calls a tow truck on you for parking in a fire truck zone.
One thing that made me laugh out loud: At the end of the musical number, you see a kid run full-speed toward a window and somersault right into a classroom. I think I know what class that kid is going to first at Rydell High School: Ninja Basics 101.
Froemming: We are introduced to all the main characters here. And you know our male lead in this film is a major nerd because he has a wimpy British accent and wears a sweater vest. Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield) is his name, and I know this because he introduces himself as such at least 30 times in the first half-hour of this film. He is also Sandy’s cousin, so we know that family is cursed with being losers genetically.
Brown: It’s weird to me that Michael is treated like such an outcast. I mean, it’s the first day of school and this school has a good-looking kid coming in with a British accent. Isn’t that something that women seem to fawn over? Maybe it’s modern-day sensibilities, but women I know like British accents a lot more than doofus greasers.
Froemming: He is wearing a sweater vest, Brown, he is obviously doomed to never be cool. That’s just how life is.
Anyway, the more interesting thing, to me, in the beginning is that we finally see the origin story of Shooter McGavin, the foil to Happy Gilmore on the golf course in the 1990s. Christopher McDonald plays one of the greasers and I swear every time he pops up on screen, I shouted a line from that movie. “Damn you people. Go back to your shanties!”
Brown: Right? I personally kept waiting for his character to ask Michael if he wanted to meet up for a drink on the ninth hole at 9 p.m.
Something I want to address, since we brought up Michael’s uncool sweater vests: The dress of Miss Mason, the music teacher. I’m sure in my teenage years, I would have loved to see a teacher with comic-book levels of cleavage. But man, there is no time period where a high-school teacher could get away with showing that much skin.
Froemming: She also flirts with the students, which was probably funny when this movie came out, but since there has been a lot of teacher-student sex scandals in recent years, it came off as kind of creepy to me.
Also, I was wondering who the older woman was who is helping Michael. It is Frenchy from the first film (again, I haven’t seen it). She dropped out, but has returned to get her diploma so she can start a cosmetics company. Man, high-school diplomas were like master’s degrees in the 60s.
Brown: Well, that’s probably not far from the truth in those days.
We get this weird scene where the marching band is practicing on the football field at the same time gym class is going on and football practice drills are underway (during this, the Pink Ladies cut through the band because they’re ill-mannered scum). Does Rydell not wait until after school for these things? And, why is there a random ditch at the end of the football field? That is a safety risk. I imagine during a football game, some pretty-boy wide receiver catches a touchdown in stride, only to break his leg by falling into a hole in the ground. Was it there to teach students World War I war tactics?
And if this wasn’t baffling enough to me, some rival gang rolls onto the track on motorcycles. At this point, this movie lost me.
Froemming: Before we get too ahead here, we need to introduce Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is the leader of the Pink Ladies, and guessing from the opening dance number, shares something in common with Phil Collins: She can’t dance. I actually liked her character in this film, which was one of the only things I enjoyed. One of the others happens after the rival biker gang on the track scene, which is when everyone goes bowling. I’ll let you take the lead on that scene.
Brown: Bowling as an allegory for sex has to be one of the most absurd things I’ve ever witnessed in any media. Seriously, bowling has to be the most unsexy activity one can do.
And watching the whole scene again, this is just mind-boggling. Hell, there are nuns cheating while they’re throwing the ball in the middle of the lane. I’m imagining the amount of blown rotator cuffs these actors had from trying to throw a bowling ball like a fastpitch softball. Then, you have people spinning so inhumanly fast, they reminded me of the “Mark Jenson Family Christmas” skit from SNL.
And, honestly, by the time the song ended, I yelled “OVER THE LINE” at my TV like Walter from “The Big Lebowski.” Every. Single. Bowler. Was over the line.
Froemming: We also saw Shooter cheating at bowling as well, which I suspect lead him to cheat at golf. And I imagine with all the singing and dancing going on, he was thinking “Damn you people! This is bowling, not a rock concert!”
Brown: Also, Michelle Pfeiffer, only terrible people wear sunglasses indoors. I think that was her decision so we didn’t see the look of “Is this really happening” in her eyes.
Froemming: We also learn that there is trouble in paradise between Stephanie and Johnny (the leader of the T-Birds). As Michael is practicing his invitation to the T-Birds to bowl for some reason, he walks into the place and gets kissed by Stephanie (it was a dare). This leads him to instantly crush on her in a pretty creepy way for the rest of the film. Also, was it a rule that every antagonist in films in the 80s had to be named “Johnny?”
Brown: While Michael is crushing on Stephanie (and repeatedly asking her out. Dude, she said no every time. Red flags, brother), that feeling isn’t reciprocated. Then, we found out why: She doesn’t want any guy, she wants a Cool Rider.
Aside from Michelle Pfeiffer CLEARLY not singing here, I’ll let you take the lead on this musical number, Froemming.
Froemming: Well, in my notes I wrote that it was very odd that Michael leaves in the middle of the song, and SHE KEEPS SINGING ANYWAY! It also sounds like a terrible rip-off of Meatloaf’s song in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Also, she is dancing like she is having a seizure, which goes back to my earlier comment: Michelle Pfeiffer cannot dance. At all.
But at the end of her spastic, Elaine-from-”Seinfeld”-dancing routine, we see that the T-Birds wants Michael to write their papers for them. And being the criminal thugs they are with that reputation, Michael better not tell anyone about this. It would tarnish their image as well-educated high school students. Yeah, that is brought up for some reason MULTIPLE TIMES!
Brown: And from the song I get it… she doesn’t want to end up with some lame guy-next-door type. But, Michael isn’t that type. Yes, he dresses like that type, but he’s an intelligent, good-looking Brit. That is not the guy next door. Hell, he’s from an OCEAN away. You wouldn’t live the quaint suburban life with him necessarily. You’d be whisked away to England, enjoying rainy weather and eating bangers like “Arrested Development” suggested.
But whatever, you’re in a garbage person group in the Pink Ladies. Stick with your tough-looking yet incredibly dorky T-Birds.
Froemming: Well, Michael gets the message loud and clear: Change who you are at your core to impress a potential significant other. That is always the start to a healthy relationship, with lies and deceit about who you truly are.
So, Michael saves up the cash from writing all those papers, and starts fixing up a motorcycle. Because risking your life popping wheelies to impress a girl is a sane and rational thing to do. But, I did enjoy watching him wipe out a couple of times as Frenchy watched from afar.
Brown: OK, since you touched on it: The way Michael makes some cash is by writing papers for the members of the T-Birds. Never mind that there is no way T-Birds know grammar or proper penmanship, what reputation are they trying to uphold? They are obnoxious, they smoke in school and they treat women poorly. But they still makes the grades?
And because we need more shoehorned quirkiness, Michael’s uncle makes him sleep in a fallout shelter, because Cold War and all.
The bike training did make me laugh as well. All it needed was some training wheels and it would be like watching my brother and sister try to teach their kids how to ride bicycles.
Froemming: To be fair, if someone in my family sported nerdy sweater vests like Michael does, I’d make them sleep in a bomb shelter as well.
Brown: You have something against people dressing like Doug Funnie?
Froemming: Anyway, this leads up to a classroom discussion by Mr. Stuart about reproduction. And this is seriously a scene that neither of us can truly explain, so here is the clip:
The fact that Mr. Stuart sings way out of key only adds to the ridiculousness of this.
Brown: Mr. Stuart (who is a substitute teacher for a teacher who keeps having a mental breakdown as a recurring joke, because suffering is funny) singing like that actually made me laugh.
But yeah, our words can’t do this number justice. Just watch the clip, folks. I get what it was like being a teenager with these feelings a middle-school teacher tried in vain to explain, but this scene was a bare chest away from turning this into a X-rated movie.
Man, this movie is making me sound like my dad.
Froemming: I almost forgot about Mr. Spears. Yeah, he had a nervous breakdown, and I felt exactly like him after the pollination song.
After this, back at the bowling alley, we see the rival bike leader hanging out alone, which prompts the T-Birds into wanting to gang up and beat him down. But because life isn’t always fair to gang mentality, Craterface’s cohorts show up for what would have been the saddest greaser fight on film ever. But fear not, Michael, in the span of an afternoon, can maneuver a bike like Evil Knievel, and saves the day. But nobody knows it is Michael, because he is not wearing that nerdy sweater vest, but a leather jacket, helmet and goggles. He is like the dorkiest Batman in history.
Brown: Did you keep questioning the scene over and over like I did hearing cop sirens in the background and thinking “OK, the police are going to show up, right?”
Froemming: I did. There were sirens, but no police show up. It was very odd.
After this, we go back to Michael’s bomb shelter room. One of the T-Birds and a Pink Lady show up. And the result is a very baffling song about them having sex because it is their patriotic duty to the country.
Yes, this is a real scene.
Brown: The T-Birds go so far as to get a siren to make it sound like the Russians are about to drop bombs onto their town. And the whole thing is the implication scene by Dennis Reynolds in “Always Sunny.” I mean, he has a GUN in his arms while he sings about how having sex is patriotism. I… I have no words for this. I want to know what weird fetishes this songwriter had… on second thought, no I don’t want to know. We’ve already seen fetishes like bowling, pollination and nuclear holocaust.
Froemming: If it seems like we are jumping around at this point in the review, it is because this film is just as choppy. At this point, I had no idea what the hell was going on, and what the endgame of this film was supposed to be. But, fear not, because it wouldn’t be a high school romp without, you guessed it, a TALENT SHOW! That is how this film tries to head back to Saneville, U.S.A. It is brought up earlier, but this is their tool to get to the end.
Brown: Quick mention of the second interaction between Michael on his motorcycle (known as the Cool Rider) and Stephanie. At this point, I think she needs to hug the motorcycle because that’s what she’s actually in love with.
Then, there’s some scenes where Michael and Stephanie interact at a diner, then Johnny and Stephanie “break up” and she’s “kicked out” of the Pink Ladies.
But enough of that filler, let’s go to the night of the talent show, which is something the kids have been building up to ALL YEAR, YOU GUYS!
Froemming: OK, she speaks to the Cool Rider, and she still cannot figure out this is Michael? Come on, those goggle are not that dark, you have seen ¾ of this guy’s face. Also, I like Stephanie’s rant about ketchup on burgers. I am the same way.
Has it been a year? I have no sense of time in this film. But yeah, the talent show is on. The T-Birds tie up an a capella group for its outfits. There is a song about seasons, which is way too impressive for a high school production. Also, everyone thinks Cool Rider is dead, because after saving the T-Birds from a deserved beating from Craterface, they want to beat up the man who saved their asses. So they chase him off a cliff.
Brown: Because if Johnny can’t have Stephanie, no one can! But, you kicked her out of the Pink Ladies… you have to date a Pink Lady, Johnny. That’s how gangs work, I guess. … Yeah, the T-Birds are a distant third in the wimpy “tough” gangs in movies behind the Jets and Sharks.
Something I thought of during the talent show: Throughout the movie, Michael is the one playing piano during all these talent show practices. I think it’s safe to assume he’d also play piano during the actual show. Wouldn’t anyone realize he’s not there? Cool Rider is supposedly dead and a British foreign exchange student is missing. There should be some worry from the townsfolks. But no, EVERYONE is at this talent show.
Froemming: He is that forgettable that no one cares if he is missing. Because he is a nerd. Apparently. That seems to be the message. And during the season song, Stephanie goes into a drug-induced vision, where she and Cool Rider sing at one another. At this point, I was almost back at “Fuller House”-style anger.
Brown: So wait, no one cares about Michael because Stephanie isn’t attracted to him? That’s not true. You hear quite a few times in the movie about how the other girls think he’s cute and think Stephanie is crazy for blowing him off. SOMEONE would realize that Michael went missing. Stephanie does not make up the collective consciousness of Rydell High School.
But yeah, let’s just have a musical number with Stephanie on top of broken-down motorcycles with the Cool Rider, who looks like 80s Rob Halford from Judas Priest.
And because this movie messes with time more than Doc Brown and Marty McFly, we fast-forward to the school’s luau. By this point, someone has to realize the British kid is missing, right? Right?!
Froemming: Wrong! Nobody notices he is missing, just like nobody notices Mr. Spears is drowning in the pool. And Johnny has been named prom king, and Stephanie is prom queen. And this scene just pops out of nowhere, and I am still baffled by it. But, Craterface and his gang show up to burn the place down. Because, sure, why not at this point?
Brown: So, how old is Craterface’s gang? Because they look much older than high-school kids. Does this group honestly have nothing better to do than harass a bunch of high-school kids? It’s the cattle version of Todd from “Beavis and Butt-Head.”
But when all hope seems lost, the Cool Rider has returned to… I don’t know… ride his motorcycle around with his jacket half open as a lamer Fonzie.
Froemming: I guess Craterface was in the first “Grease” movie, so I think you are correct. He is Todd, and you better not cause him to spill beer on his jeans. Because there will be hell to pay. Also, why did this movie suddenly turn into a “Mad Max” film?
Brown: I did get flashbacks to “Weird Science” where the road warriors all of a sudden destroy the house and try to fight everyone (which, in itself, is a reference to “Mad Max 2”).
Let’s fast-forward here… Craterface’s gang is defeated, Michael is revealed as the Cool Rider and just when it looks like Johnny is about to duke it out with Michael, he hands him a T-Birds jacket. Now, Michael and Stephanie can truly be together because high-school cliques demand it.
Which brings me to my final question: Who cares if he’s a T-Bird? Stephanie got booted from the Pink Ladies. Actually, because of that, they SHOULDN”T be able to date because T-Birds and Pink Ladies have to date.
You know what? Screw it. Few things in this movie make sense anyhow. Let them have their young love. I kind of hoped this school luau burned Rydell High School to the ground. It’s filled with the worst kind of people.
Froemming: The moral of the story is this: Conform to what the popular crowd wants, it is the only way to be a success in life. Not only is this a garbage moral, it is a garbage film. Let’s pop some wheelies on our motorcycles over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: The problem with this film is it’s a terrible musical with a horrible message. Just watch the clips above about bowling and pollination. That is all you will need to see of this garbage film. I cannot recommend this movie to anyone.
Brown: Avoid this movie. It’s not even campy fun like the first movie is. The songs, the plot, the characters, it all hurts my brain. I honestly can’t think of one redeemable thing from this film. This whole experience was just grating.