Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


GREASE 2 (1982). Director: Patricia Birch.

Okay. I came back from an extended trip out of town and a friend says to me, “Come up to the Ziegfeld theater, there's a picture playing there that I really enjoyed and I want you to see.” I was shocked to find out that the film was Grease 2. “You liked that!” I said. “I didn't even like Grease. It doesn't sound like your cup of tea at all.” Nevertheless we got in a cab and went up to the Ziegfeld, and to my great surprise I liked the damn thing, too! In fact, a few days later when we couldn't find a movie we both wanted to see one of us said to the other, “Hell – let's get in a cab and go up and see Grease 2 again.” And we did.
The way this sequel to Grease was mercilessly excoriated by the critics, you would think that the original movie was Citizen Kane. In truth, Grease 2 is a very entertaining and absolutely charming musical that features an attractive cast, some snappy numbers, and a lot of zesty pop-style choreography. Yes, it's as mindless as your average Archie comic book, and it's “message” [if you can even call it that] – become “cool,” disguise your true intelligence, and everyone will like you – is obnoxious, but no one ever said this stuff was supposed to be taken seriously. Perhaps the problem for some critics was that it was directed by a woman, and a choreographer at that.
The plot is simple. London exchange student Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield) comes to Rydell High and falls for “pink lady” Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is in the midst of breaking up with the leader of the T-Birds, Johnny (Adrian Zmed). Leaning she likes dark and dangerous guys, Michael practices on a motorcycle and develops the secret identity of the “cool rider” she's been looking for. After assorted misadventures, Stephanie learns the truth, she and Michael come together, and Johnny winds up with the plump but pretty Paulette (Lorna Luft). Pfeiffer, in one of her earliest roles, gives a convincing “light” portrait of a pretty if doomed girl of the lower class, and interprets her song numbers well. Caulfield is also good as her handsome leading man – intelligent-looking enough to be convincing as an excellent student and sexy enough to work in the guise of the cool rider. He can't really sing, but he manages to get through his numbers anyway. Lorna Luft almost steals the picture as Paulette, and there are many other flavorful performances, especially Eve Arden as the principal with her priceless facial expressions. [“I'm a little worried. I missed my last two periods,” says one pretty student. To which Arden replies: “That's okay. You can make them up after school.”
The songs were contributed by a number of people, but all of them capture the feel of the period in style, although their lyrics tend to be much more clever than those of actual sixties pop songs. Tab Hunter delivers a number about “Reproduction” to his class, who join in with joyful and vulgar abandon. The dancing, such as in the excellent opening production number “Back to School Again,” sung by the Four Tops, is also sexier than the fancy footwork of the period, but who cares? The sinewy Adrian Zmed shimmies his way through “Score” and “Prowlin'” and Peter Frechette tries to bed a cute colleen even as she thinks he's only going off to war in “Do It for Your Country.” Maureen Teefy, Leif Greene, Alison Price and Christopher McDonald [the quizmaster in Quiz Show] make the most of their smaller roles. Underneath the light touch there are some recognizable character types and the script is full of funny lines and situations. The final number, "We'll Be Together," celebrates enduring friendship and love and is a genuinely nice tune as well.
Verdict: This is really not bad at all. ***.

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