Grease is one of the most famous movie musicals ever made, with just about everyone knowing the lyrics to “Beauty School Drop Out” and waffling them in “We Go Together”. On the other hand, its sequel Grease 2, is not so beloved. But I am here to talk about why I love it, and why I think that Maxwell Caulfield is wonderful in it.
We return to Rydell High for the story of Stephanie Zinone (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) and Michael Carrington (played by Maxwell Caulfield), who are both in their senior year of high school and complete opposites. Stephanie has attended Rydell her whole high school career and is the leader of the Pink Ladies (remember them?), whilst Michael is a British exchange student and Sandy’s cousin. Michael is immediately smitten with Stephanie and does everything he can to get into her good graces, but Stephanie is fed up with boys after her less than stellar relationship with T-Bird leader Johnny (played by Adrian Zmed), and is looking for a man who can satisfy her need for adventure, a Cool Rider. Michael gets the idea to make himself into Stephanie’s ideal man, but he may just get hurt by her inability to love him for he really is.
Grease 2 is one of those movies that is just pure joy. The stakes are never so high that you think that Stephanie and Michael won’t end up together, and the cast is actually very talented. This was Maxwell Caulfield’s film debut, and was supposed to be he and Michelle Pfeiffer’s big break. Both of them give good performances and have a really likeable chemistry, which is displayed wonderfully in the final scene when they finally get together.
It also serves as a kind of early 80’s tribute to the 1950s, with Michelle Pfeiffer wearing 1950s clothes and working at what is clearly a petrol station-come-repair garage from that period, but she has a hectically layered 80’s do with a full fringe to match. I think my favourite scene in the movie is Michelle and Maxwell or rather Stephanie and Michael’s duet “(Love Will) Turn Back The Hands of Time”. It’s like something out of a classic era musical but born out of a fever dream of silver and lycra. It also has that wonderful movie music logic where the characters disappear into a reverie whilst surrounded by a room full of people. It’s the kind of scene that takes you right out of yourself and makes you forget all your problems in favour of cheering for the two leads to unite.
I think what I really like about Grease 2 is that it’s a film that’s pure entertainment. It does away with all real world logic and seeks to emerge the viewer in a movie musical fantasy. Once again, it presents an idealised world where the tough kids at Rydell High are also consummate singers and dancers, and that people like Stephanie and Michael, who actually have very little in common, can believably enter into a romantic relationship with no worries of future problems and hardships.
The songs in Grease 2 are also wonderfully catchy, with the film opening with The Four Tops singing “Back To School Again” and all of the high school students dancing in perfect synchronisation on the front lawn and around the flag pole. This is when we first see our main characters, and it sets the scene perfectly for a film that is heavy on great dancing. It’s the songs in the film that do the most to provide the audience with easy character development. Stephanie sings about her desire for a C-O-O-L R-I-D-E-R in a number in which Michelle Pfeiffer shines, climbing up a ladder at one point and shimmying across the floor at another. Michael expresses his longing for Stephanie to love him for who he is in the, frankly underrated, love ballad “Charades”, in which Maxwell gives his best sad eyes. The songs in the film also give the performers ample opportunity to show that they are a triple threat, and it’s all about the audience enjoying the experience as much as the characters, who at one point sing a double entendre “Score Tonight” at the local haunt, the bowling alley.
Grease 2 isn’t the kind of film that is about exploring the deepest recesses of the human psyche, but rather about presenting the opportunity for enjoyable predictability through its easy storyline and entertaining songs and dance routines. Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield would both go onto to more complex roles in the future, but I’m incredibly glad that we got to see them play two star crossed lovers with great hair.
This is my contribution to The Cool Rider: Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon, which I am hosting. Please visit my blog for more information and to read other blogger’s wonderful contributions.