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Grease 2

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 114 minutes

Starring: Maxwell Caulfield, Michelle Pfeiffer, Adriam Zmed, Lorna Luft and Didi Conn

Written by: Ken Finkleman

Directed by: Patricia Birch

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $19.99

Features: None

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (18 Scenes)

Released: June 10th, 2003

 

 

We all know the sequel game, but for the sake of it, let us review the basics. A film does well at the box office and movie studios then try to cash in on that success by trying to create a franchise. Some movies need sequels, some movies deserve sequels and some movies don't need any continuation whatsoever but men in expensive suits think otherwise because they want to buy more expensive suits. Still, sequels have a lot to live up to since most "first" movies are so beloved. Truthfully, most sequels don't live up to their predecessors. There is the rare case where the sequel matches the first equally or surpasses it, but that's always a rare and surprising case. "Grease 2" is not one of those rare cases.

In today's day and age, sequels are pretty common and movie studios realize that they can even make a bigger profit off of them - even more than the original films. There was a time when sequels would be made cheap and without much thought just to cash-in, but these days sequels have bigger budgets, usually take a considerable amount of time to make and aren't rushed out as studios try to create the best product they can, all in hopes of pleasing fans and newbies alike to get them to come back before. It's a formula that usually works and in truth make sense since audiences expect a certain level of quality.

I have no idea idea why I'm even writing about this because "Grease 2," even though it came out a few years after the original, was still a cheaply made sequel meant to cash in on a very successful movie musical which of course was based on a very successful stage show. And while I'm all for sequels, even if they suck, that continue the story and characters from the original, a big pet peeve of mine are sequels that have nothing to do with the original movie except the name or stupid small details. "Grease 2" doesn't have the original songwriters. "Grease 2" doesn't have the original screenwriter. "Grease 2" doesn't have most of the original cast and "Grease 2" doesn't have a lot going for it to connect with the original. So what does return? Involvement from Allan Carr as producer, Rydell High School, the Pink Ladies, the T-Birds and Didi Conn.

The cash-in by now is obvious, but we should at least give the filmmakers some credit for keeping it at the same high school and leaving the gang names alone. Anyway, "Grease 2" picks up in 1961 (two years after the first one). We meet Michael (Maxwell Caulfield in his first starring role), a teen who comes from England (and who is related to pivotal character from the first movie) where he falls hard for Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer, also in her first starring role). The problem? Stephanie, while looking for a new love, is a Pink Lady and Pink Ladies only date T-Birds. So now Michael wants Stephanie, the plot is basically a backward reworking of the first movie and yeah... you can probably guess what happens.

People love to bash "Grease 2" and it deserves it. And while it's definitely not as good as the first movie and I still think it's pretty crappy, I'm not sure if it's as bad as you'd probably been lead to believe. The film works and can be fun if you have fun with it. And by that I mean it can be entertaining as long as you don't take it too seriously (even if this was a legit attempt at a sequel). It's a film you can definitely mock, but oddly enough, I found it compelling and somewhat entertaining (but that doesn't mean it's a good movie at all). I was curious what would go wrong next and what dumb antics these characters would go through. This film is cheesy as hell in its production design, music and story but acts as if it's the greatest thing in the world, as if it has some unique pizzazz. Now that's funny.

Ken Finkleman has only written four movies, and all of them were in the 1980s. Sure "Head Office" has its fans, but "Grease 2" has a pathetic plot that's overlong with clichés galore and pretty annoying characters. Sure he tries to link the first film with what he has, and even Frenchy's reason for coming back to Rydell is pretty stupid. The dialogue is awful and a lot of the scenes in the film are pointless and just scream at you to mock them. Most don't really advance the story at all. Patricia Birch's directing tries too hard to be stylish and ends up falling pretty hard with its awkward cuts, uninspired emotional tapestry and uneven pace. Couldn't the writer and director could have worked closer together to ensure a more even, interesting and worthwhile experience?

And don't think I'm letting the songs slip away. No no. "Grease 2" is a musical and it seems to be proud of that. The original "Grease" had some very memorable songs that infused popular culture, and I don't even know what the songwriters were aiming for here. Given the film's story arc and characters, the task seems impossible but it was somehow done. That is exactly why the song and dance numbers pretty much appear out of nowhere. Not that I or any of you should have expected the songs to match the quality of the original, since it's one of those things you know that can't really happen (but there was probably a possibility to come close). Some of the tunes are SOMEWHAT catchy, but not enough to stay in your head for long. The lyrics are pretty atrocious, and what the topics these characters singing and dancing about is nutty. Bowling being symbolic for sexual intercourse? Reproduction? Jeez! It certainly is a stretch, and provides the answer why we all don't randomly break into song and dance in our normal lives. We'd be acting like fools and would be constantly criticized. As far as the choreography, it's nothing great. There are a lot of people in most of the numbers which can be fun to watch, but the moves are pretty standard and don't bring much. The dance moves are cheesy, but guess what? Those fit right in with the cheesy movie! You just know how the characters are going to step and dance within the numbers. In short, I love to compare "Grease 2" to a direct-to-video Disney animated feature. The original versions had great songs and the sequels songs just plain sucked and sound like they were all written in an hour.

At least the acting is likable. Not that Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield have a lot of sparks on screen, but there is some vague chemistry that is slightly respectable. Pfeiffer is a talented actress, but we all have to start somewhere and it's usually at the bottom of the totem pole. Still, I liked her in this movie and her whole get-up (attitude, accent and mannerisms). She has played nasty people on screen, but a certain intrigue and sweetness usually shine through. Caulfield meanwhile is just plain fun to watch since he is charismatic. And while his character is from England, he sounds Australian. But that's okay if the accents aren't straight - Caulfield actually comes from Scotland. Also to be noted is Didi Conn who's pretty enjoyable as Frenchy (yet again), the underrated character actor Christopher McDonald (who'd go on to bigger, better and greater things but shows a whole heap of energy and passion in this movie) and of course Sid Caesar in a brief "special appearance" role. So what is he doing in this movie!?

As I write this, Paramount has given the go-ahead to make a "Grease 3" since the movie musical is coming back, and the first film is still incredibly popular (the DVD release did quite well as did the 1998 theatrical re-release). Apparently it would take place in the 1970s and involve the offspring from characters of the first movie to be played by your run-of-the-mill faddy teen stars of today (who probably won't be around when production starts but there should be knew ones), all topped with a few choice cameos. It sounds like an idea that just might be able to work if done right, but I still have a feeling it could be a major dud. So at this point, I must make my plea: Paramount and the filmmakers of the third installment, study the flaws of "Grease 2" and try to figure out what went wrong. We don't want history repeating twice.

 

For whatever reason, "Grease 2" was shot wide and this transfer preserves that by presenting in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Granted, the film is over twenty years old and doesn't look spectacular, but I've seen even worse for pretty recent movies. Still, the film's transfer grew on me as the film went along and isn't too bad. It's a bit grainy and appears to be a bit faded, and some edge enhancement can be seen but it is pretty slight. Detail is fine, blacks are somewhat solid and flesh tones are decent. The film has a wide variety of colors and while they don't exactly pop right out at you, they stand out to some extent and appear to be well saturated. There are some others flaws too with the image like blemishes and marks on the print, not to mention heavy noise and noticeable edge halos. It's not perfect, but good for what it is. And hey, now you have this "classic" in widescreen!

 

"Grease 2" also gets a full English 5.1 Dolby Digital remix, and while for the most part it is good, it's not going to truly fill your speakers and deliver a full-fledged musical experience or anything like that. So anyway, as we know, "Grease 2" is a musical which means plenty of opportunity for music, songs and surrounds. The musical numbers have some dynamic range, but at times they feel hollow and doesn't always deliver an experience that really gets you in to the film and you feel there could be more power to the songs. Still, they fill up the speakers and do a decent job, but there is definitely a sense that there could have been more strength to throw around.

Dialogue is clear and for the most part easy to hear, but sometimes it sounds pretty low and as a result it gets muddled with the rest of the elements. Sometimes dialogue will occur during the instrumentals of a song, and the music will overpower what the characters are saying. It's not a major problem since you can still hear, but it definitely creates an annoyance. As far as surrounds, there is a decent amount of them, but they sound cheap and cheesy (just like the movie). Motorcycles rumbling, some crashes and some screams are all here among others, but they mostly lack something as there is artificial quality to them. The mix tries to spruce them up but most of the surrounds sound pretty flat and unconvincing. Fidelity is not impressive and the dynamics of the mix are limited. The mix overall works, but is only slightly above average. Also included are English closed captions, English subtitles, a French stereo surround track plus an English Dolby Surround track.

 

What!? No "Grease 2" sing-along song booklet? Why am I not surprised there are no supplements here? Not that this film deserved a "Special Collector's Edition" banner on it or anything in the first place...

 

As far as sequels go, we should all know that "Grease 2" is one of the worst (some might argue that it's worse than "Staying Alive"!) but the DVD is adequate at best with a decent 5.1 remix and pretty good transfer. But if for some reason you are craving this movie on our favorite digital format, want a complete "Grease" collection (consisting of the first one and this) or looking to pass time while Hollywood tries to great a third entry into the franchise you never knew that was a franchise, then this is for you. But me? I'd rather keep where this butt of many Hollywood jokes where it belongs: in the past.