It's sad to say, but the summer is coming to a close. It's even sadder to say – for some – that another school year is about to begin. About this time every year, I get a song stuck in my head. Well, two. First is Billy Madison's back to school song. You know, "Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight." The second comes from a movie with somewhat more acceptable classroom behavior, but also one that's underappreciated, Grease 2. "I gotta go back, back, back to school again."
When you're following in the footsteps of a film as beloved as Grease, you're practically in a lose-lose situation. There was really no way director Patricia Birch could top Randal Kleiser's work and Max Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer were just no match for the ultimate duo, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. You know what you do when there's just no way of being the best? You settle for mediocre and just have a blast with it. And that's exactly what Grease 2 is; a so-so film that gets major bonus point for being such a damn good time.
This time around, it's the guy who's the new kid at Rydell High. Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield) hails from England and while his accent may make female viewers swoon, it doesn't have that effect on the Pink Ladies. Michael instantly takes a liking to the lead lady, Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer). The problem is, she used to date the head of the T-Birds, Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed), and even if they're no longer hot and heavy, he isn't about to let her go on and date someone else, especially the new kid. Another problem is that Stephanie only wants to date a "cool rider" and Michael is more of a nerdy bookworm. The only way he can get close to Stephanie is by masquerading as her cool motorcycle rider.
There's no denying that the Grease 2 premise is lame, as are most of the lyrics, but that's what makes the movie so much fun. Grease is praised for its caliber, its meaningful and memorable tunes and fantastic performances. Grease 2, on the other hand, should just be appreciated for its entertainment value.
Grease 2 is no Grease nor is it trying to be. The first is packed with some serious subject matter like teen pregnancy and high school dropouts. Yes, it has its funny moments, but its tone is not nearly as light as its sequel. Grease 2 basically establishes itself as a comedy musical with a hint of parody right from the start. Just compare the scene of Sandy and Danny sharing a passionate last day in Australia together to Grease 2's "Back to School" opening. Grease 2 is going to be peppier and cheesier and lets you know it right from the start.
Grease is the one you watch for nostalgia purposes, Grease 2 is for amusement and to get yourself in the most upbeat mood possible, especially before hitting the books. "Back to School Again," "Cool Rider," "Reproduction," "Who's That Guy," "Prowlin;" I'd like to bet that if you've seen Grease 2, you're humming one of those songs right now just from reading the titles. Beyond the songs themselves, the way they're performed on screen is endlessly entertaining. There's much more going on here than in Grease. In fact, a nice handful of the songs in Grease are performed solo and basically stagnant. You've got Stockard Channing lurking in the corner singing "There Are Worst Things I Could Do," Newton-John sitting on a swing belting out "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and more. The only slower paced, minimalistic song in Grease 2 is Michael's solo, "Charades." Even the ballad "Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time" is spiced up with a dream-like vibe.
This is precisely why Grease 2 is more for fun and less for quality. And that is why the fast-paced, group songs on speed are acceptable. "Back to School Again" is just a fantastically over-the-top way to kick things off and get you bouncing in your seat and then move into another tune packed with overacting, absurd lyrics and a monumental amount of fun, "Score Tonight." I could take a pass on song #3, "Brad," but it's a short one, so it's no buzz kill. Things pick right back up with what should be every girl's anthem, "Cool Rider," and one of the most amusing songs in the film, "Reproduction." Next up is one of my favorites, Sharon and Louis (Maureen Teefy and Peter Frechette) singing "Do It for Our Country." Sharon's naivety aside, the double innuendo is endlessly amusing.
Then comes yet another personal favorite, the T-Bird's entry for the school talent show, "Prowlin." I know the boys of The Jersey Shore call it "creeping," but I'd pay big bucks to see them reenact this scene. From there we get "Charades," which is a little on the sleepy side for me, but then things pick back up with the Pink Ladies' talent show piece, "Girls for All Seasons." That Stephanie and Michael duet "Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time" comes next followed by Grease 2's weak yet enjoyable attempt at recreating "We Go Together," "Rock-a-Hula Luau." The film winds up with the tacky but sweet "We'll Be Together."
The point of running through the film song-by-song? If you've seen the film, to remind you that the majority of this movie is pretty good and, more importantly, to recognize how catchy these tunes really are. For those of you who haven't seen it, hopefully my 11 for 13 song approval score will compel you to check it out. Why not take the dialogue in between songs into consideration? Think back to Grease. How much of the dialogue do you really remember? Okay, I can remember a number of conversations in Grease off the top of my head like Danny and Sandy's reunion at the bonfire and the debate after Kenickie bumps his head before the big race, but in Grease 2, talk serves one purpose, to get you from musical number to musical number and considering the musical numbers are a blast, there's nothing wrong with that.
The more of these Defending Bad Movies pieces I write, the more I realize how many movies are being judge based on film techniques alone. What happened to just sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the show? It's fine to nitpick here and there, but if overall, a film leaves you with a good feeling, it deserves approval. Grease 2 is a party through and through and certainly worthy of multiple viewings. It may not be as good as its iconic predecessor, but that in no way makes it any less enjoyable.