So, do you really wanna know what I want out of a Grease film? I want it to be Grease 2.
Look, let’s cut to the chase—I totally grasp the fact that we wouldn’t have Grease 2 without the first film. It’s iconic. It exists on the same sort of pop culture plane as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Everyone knows about Grease whether they’ve never seen it or watched it a million times.
But I think Grease 2 is better.
On the surface, it looks like a straight swap of the first film’s bad-guy-loves-good-girl concept: Good guy Michael (Maxwell Caulfield) falls for Pink Ladies leader Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer). But whereas Danny and Sandy felt like ’50s archetypes, Stephanie and Michael feel like real people.
Set on the cusp of the 1960s, both lead characters are searching for what they want. Over the summer, Stephanie broke up with Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed), the leader of the T-Birds because “there’s more to life than making out.” She’s constantly questioning her place in the Pink Ladies and feels stifled by the same rules that make them so cool. Michael, on the other hand, is a total fish out of water, visiting from England (he’s a cousin of Sandy’s) and having to navigate all sorts of social cues and slang.
One night at the bowling alley, Nogerelli is still trying to put the moves on Stephanie and she’s not having it. “I ain’t nobody’s trophy…I can kiss who I want when I want,” saying she’ll kiss the next person who walks through the door. It’s Michael, and sparks fly. The next day he’s not put off by trying to ask her out multiple times despite them being from completely different worlds.
Then in what is possibly the best musical number of the whole bunch, Stephanie describes her dream guy in “Cool Rider.”
“I want a devil in skin tight leather
He’s gotta be wild as the wind
And one fine night
I’ll be holdin’ on tight, to
A cool rider
A cool rider
If he’s cool enough
He can burn me through and through
If it takes forever
Then I’ll wait forever”
Seriously, is there anyone cooler on this earth than Michelle Pfeiffer? I don’t think so. Unlike the previous Pink Ladies, Stephanie has this effortless cool about her style and isn’t overly sexualized (see Sandy’s makeover at the end of Grease). Stephanie wears lots of black, bowling shirts, her shades, and TURNS HER PINK LADIES JACKET INSIDE OUT. Like, she is literal cool girl goals, and unseats Rizzo for best Pink Lady of all time in my book.
As for Michael, he uses the ‘smart guy’ trope to his advantage, taking money from the T-Birds to write their papers throughout the school year. This, in turn, funds his “Cool Rider” bike. He actually builds it from the ground up and teaches himself how to ride, without taking any pointless ‘cool’ cues from the T-Birds. What did Danny do again to impress Sandy, run track and field? And try to play off trying to better himself? How is that cool? (It isn’t.)
Michael’s hard work behind the scenes pays off and he not only impresses Stephanie, he makes all the other cool guys look totally lame. (All while wearing a helmet and “goggles like a man from outer space.” Obviously, the headgear is there to conceal who he is, but kudos to the smart kid actually making bike safety cool.)
And Michael’s biker counterpart bolsters his self-confidence to ask Stephanie if she needs help with her papers, too, and the two have enough chemistry to set the whole damn diner on fire.
But it’s not without its downfalls, because Michael does wish Stephanie could see him for what he really is.
“Oh, please don’t mind me,
Performing at my hardest,
As I paint upon the air,
You won’t find me,
Cause it’s a portrait of the artist,
As a man who isn’t there
Charades and pretty lies,
They hide what’s deep inside me,
Charades do disguise,
All the love I keep inside me,
Charades can’t see me,
But can you feel the real me,
The real me behind my charades”
I’m sorry, this is a Grease film that just dropped a reference to James Joyce in its lyrics. YOU HAVE MY FULL ATTENTION. And on that note, the songs in Grease 2 really don’t get enough love. Much like Shock Treatment, (the criminally underrated sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show) the songs of Grease 2 are really clever and fun.
I mean, if I ever had kids, I’d just put on “Reproduction” to have the whole birds and bees talk because it’s all based in biology. “Girl for All Seasons” will get stuck in your head when you least expect it. The whole Americana “Do It For Our Country” number is funny on multiple levels. T-Bird DiMucci (Peter Frechette) just wants to go all the way with Pink Lady Sharon (Maureen Teefy), and he’ll fake an air raid to do it. However, Sharon’s ready to sign up and serve her country, and pissed as hell when she finds out this was a ploy to get her in the sack.
In a roundabout way, Grease 2 is the feminist hot take you didn’t know you needed. It’s worth mentioning that the film was directed by Patricia Birch who served as choreographer for the first film. According to IMDB, the script for the second film wasn’t even finished when film shooting started, so she just rolled with it and I think, in the long run, it paid off, even if Frenchy disappears through half of the film. I mean, check out that opening dance number to “Back to School Again” or the cool backlit dancers standing on top of the cars in the “Who’s that Guy?” sequence. There’s a lot to like here, even if it’s a slow burn.
Speaking of slow burns, let’s talk about how Michael and Stephanie finally hook up. While Sandy says goodbye to being a good girl at the very end of the original film, Michael’s transition to tough guy takes a good chunk of Grease 2, so when he finally shows up at the Rock-a-Hula-Luau, it’s not super surprising, and the T-Birds do right by him and give him a jacket (not that he really needed it anyhow, mainly because Stephanie’s just glad her cool rider is still alive.) As I got older, it really ground my gears that Sandy had to put on a front for who she was, and when I watch it now, it feels as jarring as Ally Sheedy’s supposed glow up at the end of The Breakfast Club. (Leave that black shit on her eyes, Molly Ringwald, how dare you take my goth icon from me!) Regardless, Michael’s goal from the start has been to go out with Stephanie and now she knows she got the brains and the brawn. Hell, she even jokes, “I got two for the price of one.” She literally got her a man who can do both, guys.
Their last song together reflects them finally being cool with who they are (and there’s not a flying car or “Sandy’s Dead” theory in sight):
“You were the one, the one in my dreams, but I never knew it.
I wanted to tell you time and again, but I couldn’t do it.
All that you are is all that I need, no more pretending.
Now I can be me, and you can be you,
And we’re never-ending, whoa oh oh…”
It might take forever for people to appreciate Grease 2 but like Stephanie, I can wait forever.