I’ve noticed a trend forming in recent years. I keep coming across more and more women my age, in their (*cough*) late 20s, who share my love of the cheesy, terrible, singalong joy that is Grease 2.
This trend continues to gather pace to the point where most of my friendship group now shares this long-held shameful secret.
This reached its pinnacle last year when we all went to watch a stage version of the movie in London. Cool Rider was a one-night only performance of the musical with the same characters and all of the songs from Grease 2, just in a simpler, cut-down, easy to perform stage style.
Let’s face it, having swarms of motorbikes on stage every three minutes jumping over cars would probably give any director a coronary. That night the Lyric Theatre was 98% filled with women in their ‘late 20s’ and throughout the whole performance the entire theatre sang along to every single last word with a passion I can only imagine on a football pitch or in an evangelical church. By the end of the show every single person in the building was giving a standing ovation. It was undoubtedly the single most fun I’ve ever had while sober in Central London.
Grease 2 is the word
When the movie was released in 1982, Grease 2 was a flop. It made hardly any money at the box office and it received mostly scathing reviews. But the sort of passion and joy I witnessed that night during Cool Rider cannot come from just any old piece of shit flop. So why is it that we love this throwaway, unappreciated sequel so much and why does it make for the perfect cult movie?
For a movie that I am fairly sure my friends and I all watched when we were around nine years old, there sure are a lot of references to sex in it, I wonder if my mum knew?
Four out of the 13 songs in the movie all directly revolve around the theme of ‘doing it’. I’m definitely including ‘Score Tonight’ in here because we all know it’s not really about bowling, especially when you see the way Johnny stares at Paulette’s arse while she’s bending over in those ridiculous gold, sparkly leggings in the bowling alley.
‘Reproduction’ is of course about sex albeit in an educational way, but the lesson soon descends into chaos with all the students rubbing up and down each other, necking and Johnny whipping out his Playboy (the magazine you understand, not anything else) and there’s a classic line where Mr Stewart asks the boys when they thought was the best time for a woman to conceive and one of the T-birds replies, “At night.”
‘Prowlin’ has the T-birds listing every type of woman they would like to nail (so that’s all of them then, is it Johnny?) And finally there’s ‘Do It for Our Country’ where Louis concocts a lie that a “neucleoid war” has started just so he can try to bang Sharon in an air raid shelter. Luckily for her, and an increasingly concerned audience, she ain’t falling for it.
The whole movie is peppered with teens wearing tight T-shirts, clingy pencil skirts and leather jackets, all topped off with a healthy portion of sexy hormones floating about in every scene. For a pre-teen girl watching this back in the ’90s I’m pretty sure I found the whole thing exhilarating and a bit naughty.
But for all the lust and innuendo nobody in the movie ever actually has sex. Even Louis who spends the entire time trying to get into Sharon’s knickers at the end of the movie seems content when she sings to him, “There’s nothing wrong with just liking each other.” And for that reason it probably appealed to my young self even more. I was watching older kids do older kid stuff but without it being too terrifying and unrelatable.
One look at the main cast of Grease 2 and it’s pretty obvious what the director thought would sell movie tickets: a bunch of pretty people prancing about, singing and wearing the aforementioned tight T-shirts. All of the Pink Ladies and the T-birds in Grease 2 are incredibly good looking, especially when you compare them next to the ‘characterful’ mugs in the original Grease movie. Let’s look at the evidence:
However just because the new cast are more appealing, it doesn’t mean they are more talented. In fact it seems that the cast of Grease 2 have been picked solely because of their looks rather than their singing talent. That’s probably a little harsh on the guys who play Johnny Nogerelli and Paulette Rebchuck, who can definitely carry a tune, but there is no denying that Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield who play Stephanie and Michael must surely have been picked primarily for their beautiful faces.
Trust me, I sometimes listen to the Grease 2 soundtrack on Spotify at work (yes, because I am cool) and without the distraction of their pretty, pretty faces you realise that they are dreadful singers.
But you know what? We don’t care! We don’t watch Grease 2 for the talent! We watch it for the joy we get from seeing a bunch of beautiful people prance about in tight T-shirts singing stupid songs. I know who I would rather look at to forget about my real life for a while.
And if you weren’t convinced, here’s Sonny and Jan for you again one last time:
Yeah yeah, I know…… smoking is bad. It’s not big and it’s not clever and it’s definitely not good for your health. But I refer you back to my nine year-old self who first watched this movie, and back then smoking was something that cool older kids did. In the opening scene where we first meet the main characters one of the Pink Ladies and all four of the T-birds are smoking. A lot.
Geez they are so cool. Look at them with their over-sized sunglasses, matching jackets and pack of 20 Marlboro. If this doesn’t make you want to steal your mum’s red lipstick and stuff your bra so you can either try and be one of the Pink Ladies or try and snog a T-bird, then I don’t know what will.
The movie is not condoning smoking but they understand what kids want to watch. You want movies where the characters are cooler and wilder than you and take risks you probably wouldn’t have the balls for. Smoking just happens to be a part of that persona. It is exactly this touch of slightly naughty bad-boy/girl charm that Grease 2 trades on. And exactly why we love it.
Oh and it also meant they could include that scene where Johnny is nearly caught smoking in the corridor by Miss McGee and has to flip his cigarette into his mouth. Totally worth it.
The original Grease movie had cars and car chases. What’s cooler than cars? Motorbikes!! Yup, that’s right, they are infinitely more dangerous and there’s far more chance of a teenager being maimed or involved in a terrible road accident, which obviously makes them more appealing to young, impressionable minds. And Grease 2 has motorbikes by the miles to a gallon.
They are everywhere in Grease 2: all of the T-birds ride bikes, all of the rival gang members ride bikes and Michael learns that all Stephanie really wants is a certain type of guy who rides a certain type of motorbike… (Wait for it, it’s coming soon!)
It’s all sort of ridiculous and implausible. I love the fact that at one point about 15 guys from the rival gang, led by the mean-looking Balmudo, drive their motorbikes not only into the school but straight onto the bloody sports track and nobody bats an eyelid. And then we have Michael who, without any prior knowledge whatsoever, buys a rusty old pile of junk of a bike and then proceeds to fix it up into a real mean machine that make all the ladies swoon. Oh and he also teaches himself how to ride really well, pops wheelies and even jumps over police cars and bloody great swimming pools! I don’t believe it for a second but I love it.
Okay, now this is what we’ve all been waiting for: ‘Cool Rider’. It remains one of my favourite cinematic moments of all time. I know that is quite the claim but I don’t care. In this song Stephanie finally reveals to Micheal that she “don’t want no ordinary boys coming on strong with me” and she sings about how she only wants to date a super cool guy who rides a really sweet motorbike. A ‘Cool Rider’ if you will. I think the notion of wanting to date the coolest guy in school is something that all girls can relate to.
Stephanie looks super hot all dressed in black with her little boots, big hair and red lipstick. The song itself is great and it’s still part of the karaoke repertoire among my friends. My husband and I even played it at our wedding reception last year, such is our deep love of this stupid song.
Plus, the bit where Stephanie climbs the ladder, swings her leg over the top and straddles it makes both boys and girls go a bit weak at the knees.
So we know that this is a cheesy, dumb movie. But despite the larks, it does actually have a few nice feminist aspects about it. For a start, unlike Grease, in this movie it is the guy who is chasing the girl; women are in a position of power here and this time no girl is required to wear a skin tight, spray-on black lycra outfit, perm their hair and take up smoking like Oliver Newton John did. Oh no, no, no, no. This time we leave the boys to look like idiots.
I also like the fact that although Stephanie is the leader of the Pink Ladies she is a bit of a tomboy. She often wears trousers, shirts and baggy sweatshirts, just putting a skirt on over the top of her Capri pants to go to class. She doesn’t have to be a girly girl to still be sexy, feminine and the hottest girl in school.
And unlike Grease where the Pink Ladies remain under the thumbs of the T-birds, here Stephanie rebels against the rule book and refuses to just be “someone’s chick”. Even if that means defying Johnny and risking her inclusion in the Pink Ladies.
I ain’t nobody’s trophy… I kiss who I want, when I want.
And do you know what? It all works out in the end. Even though Stephanie breaks the Pink Lady code and dares to fall for someone who isn’t wearing a T-bird jacket (yet), they all just smile and get along and finish on a lovely song about how they will all be friends forever. It may be sappy and sentimental but it’s a nice thing to teach young women that they can be themselves and their friends should stick by them.
I got a rep to protect
Now, as much as I love this movie I know that it is never going to win any Oscars. It will always be just a sappy, pappy cheesy musical. But I think that is why I like it, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are some catchy songs, some vaguely funny jokes courtesy of the T-birds and it’s all just about having a good time. Even if some of the plot points are stupid to the point of hilarity.
The scene where Stephanie drifts off into a dream sequence while on stage at the talent show and imagines the possibly-deceased Michael up in heaven on a white motorbike, dressed in a tight, gold leather ensemble is one of the stupidest scenes in movie history. There ensues an utterly dreadful song where they both dance around bike heaven in the swirling mists, lamenting the tragic end to their love. Unconvinced? I’ll just leave this picture here…
Till death do us part, think Pink!
Let’s recap then: pretty people on motorbikes, smoking fags, singing catchy songs and lusting after everything in tight pants. As a teenager I’m not sure why you wouldn’t like this movie!
Right from the beginning you know that you are in the presence of the cool kids; the kind of kids that everyone wants to be like and your parents would hate. And that’s all we really wanted to do, wasn’t it? Be a bit naughty and rebel against our parents? Of course it’s easier if Michelle Pfeiffer does it in a movie for you. Less chance of getting grounded that way.
And for all its flirtation with bad boys and breaking rules, at its heart the movie sends out some good messages: to embrace who you are and be yourself. Even nerdy British bookworm Michael gets the girl in the end. That’s still worth a watch or two in my book. Of that I’ve never been certainer. More certain? The certainist!