I have a fascinating relationship to Grease 2; my friends might call it an abusive relationship, but I would describe it as unlikely. The thing is, most of the world views Grease 2 as a, pardon the pun, grease fire of a sequel, one that tarnishes the legacy of the original film. I think this worldview, in the crassest of terms, is complete bullshit. Grease 2, with all its quirky warts and messy plotting, actually does a really great job at maintaining the same effervescent, melodious, “these high school seniors look 35” energy that made the original the classic it is. However, Paramount’s production woes surrounding the film, particularly in that the film started shooting with an incomplete script that went through major changes as filming continued (ever notice how Frenchy completely disappears from the film around the halfway mark?) led the studio to dump the film and write it off as a loss, leading audiences to do the same. However, in the years since, more audiences have taken to the film’s over-the-top charm and appreciate the film for what it does do so well: capture an iconic era, in all its glory, but also nastiness, and set it to some of the catchiest Broadway-pop ever written. For this growing number of freaks like myself, Paramount’s Steelbook re-issue of the Blu-ray previously released in 2020, which in turn was a Blu-ray Disc Recordable (BD-R) print of the version released in the 2018 box-set collection of Grease, Grease 2, and Grease: Live!, does present the best way to own the film, but frustrations I had with the previous releases are still present, only making this the case by a small margin.
Set in 1961, two years after the events of Grease, Rydell High begins a new school year with all the same mayhem as is expected. Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield), an exchange student from England, and cousin of Grease protagonist Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John, not present in the film), begins his new life at Rydell with an intense culture shock, all while being helped by Frenchy (Didi Conn), who has returned to high school to pursue an education in cosmetic chemistry. Unaware of the still present hierarchy of the Rydell student body at the hands of the Greaser T-Bird boys and their female counterparts, the Pink Ladies, Maxwell finds himself in hot water after he falls for leader of the Pink Ladies, Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer), angering her ex-boyfriend, leader of the T-Birds, Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed). Michael must use his social cunning, and a little bit of disguise, to win Stephanie’s hardened heart.
I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, what a weird and stupid plot to a musical,” but is it honestly any less believable than two teenagers falling in love on summer vacation, only for the Australian teenager to suddenly move as the school year starts directly to the same town as the other teenager and they attend the same high school with no knowledge of it until like ⅓ of the way through the film? I don’t mean this as an excuse for Grease 2 being silly, it absolutely is, and combining it with the sometimes comically out-of-place songs, it is sillier than the first film, but the idea that the mere concepts of Grease and Rydell High as a whole aren’t complete fever dreams is denigrating the reason that these films resonate with so many people. I feel like I’ve taken a ton of NyQuil and stayed up through the sleepiness whenever I watch either film, and I think that’s beautiful.
But there is a reason that Grease 2 resonates with so many people (*cough*gays*cough*): Michelle. F*cking. Pfeiffer. While the film provided a ton of career assistance to the likes of Maxwell Caulfield, Adrian Zmed, Peter Frechette, Christopher McDonald, Pamela Adlon, and furthered the celebrity of Garland daughter Lorna Luft, there is no shadow of a doubt that if there is one star to be made in this cast, it’s Pfeiffer. Representing a sort of “Anti-Sandy,” Stephanie didn’t have to make any transformation for a man come the finale. She, out-the-gate, is already the coolest version of herself she can be, and unlike the first film, it’s the male lead who now has to catch up with her. Pfeiffer, as we’ve come to learn from the rest of her illustrious career which is still going strong today, is truly one of the most effortlessly cool actresses of her generation, a trait that goes all the way back to her film debut in this film. There is nothing, not even from the original film, that comes close to the sexy, fun, cool time that comes from Pfeiffer’s rendition of “Cool Rider,” a song that my sister and I can still perfectly perform to this day.
Speaking of music, you can’t discuss Grease 2 without discussing its very interesting soundtrack. The film, not based on a prior show on Broadway, is a collection of really great individual songs that admittedly…don’t really mesh that well in terms of a cohesive story. Sure, the original didn’t do it amazingly either, but there was still a sense of thematic cohesion to the music that made it feel relatively organic. Grease 2, despite having (good) original music, does utilize it in a way that almost makes it feel more like a jukebox musical than anything else, as if the music was written and simply had to find a way to fit itself into the film’s narrative. Something that, knowing the nature of the film’s production, isn’t a far-fetched idea.
And that’s where the flaws of Grease 2 do become apparent, even to a cult member like myself. The first half of the film absolutely blows the second half of the film, often unaware of what it actually wants to be, out of the water. When the film relishes in separated songs of world-building and slice-of-life mayhem at Rydell, it soars, but as the film progresses and the very unfinished screenplay has to figure out what to do with itself, it does lose a fair amount of steam.
Paramount has released Grease 2 on Blu-ray twice before, once in 2018 exclusive to the “Grease Collection” box-set, a box-set I could not get because I purchased the 4K Blu-ray of the original film that was only sold as a separate product, and couldn’t justify double-dipping. Luckily, a bit of patience and a lot of prayers later, Paramount released a BD-R individual release that finally brought this favorite of mine into the HD realm and into my hands.
Unfortunately, this Steelbook re-issue of Grease 2, despite no longer being a BD-R release, does seem to contain the same A/V transfer from the original release, which is generally of good quality. There’s nothing that can really save Grease 2 from feeling like a product of 1982, but for what it’s worth, Paramount’s 1080p video transfer and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix do their jobs sufficiently well. Why I call this release unfortunate is that, aside from an appreciated digital copy, Grease 2 still features no special features on its HD release, something that, given its newfound cult status and interest in its troubled production that, in the light of 2022, I’m sure would not be damaging to Paramount to document and discuss and would provide some great supplemental material.
And because of that, if you already own Grease 2 on Blu-ray in any capacity, I can’t really suggest picking this title up if you aren’t a complete Steelbook hound, or you want to purchase the film digitally and might as well just spend a few extra dollars for both that and a much more attractive case to store the film in. While I would’ve adored a full-on 4K release, I’m simply grateful that the film has even come to Blu-ray after being off the market for so many years. Still, there’s a good story to be found in the production of Grease 2 that, perhaps if the rights should ever go up for it, could be filled in wonderfully by a loving release from the likes of Shout! Factory, etc.
Listen, I get it if you don’t like Grease 2. It’s a polarizing film that most people don’t find a ton of value in. I also want you to know that I do, however, take it as a personal offense to my entire character when you say things like that, and I will internalize that hurt for the rest of my life. Paramount’s re-issue of the film in a Steelbook is a stunning package, but one that still paints the studio as not being fully willing to completely accept its status as a cult classic, which I really wish someone would do. I can’t go all out and say this is a better film than Grease, because that’s really saying a lot, because even I do notice its production flaws, particularly in the film’s second act, but dear god, when will we accept that there is so much to appreciate here as well? Michelle Pfeiffer, Pamela Adlon, and Lorna Luft all as Pink Ladies? A whole song about how bowling is so damn fun? There’re just too many, whether intentional or not, memorable moments in Grease 2 that are written off just because the film lives in the shadow of its bigger, more popular sibling. It’s time for this baby to bust out of its shell and be the Cool Rider we’ve always known it to be.
And I want someone to treat it as such in its Blu-ray release.
Available on Blu-ray and digital June 7th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Paramount Pictures Grease 2 webpage.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.