Grease 2, like many sequels to Hollywood blockbusters, was perhaps doomed to fail from the very beginning. It would have taken something truly extraordinary to live up to the phenomenon that was Grease, but the sequel failed to wow audiences, instead severely underwhelming them. While Grease earned over $180,000,000 and was nominated for a Golden Globe, People’s Choice, and Academy Award, Grease 2 earned a mere (in comparison) $11,000,000 and was hilariously nominated for a Stinker’s Bad Movie Award.
But what is it that makes this film so bad? The soundtrack plays a big part in the film’s low ratings. Instead of the sing-along hits that make Grease worth watching again and again, Grease 2 jumps between awkward, innuendo jammed musical numbers about bowling, plant reproduction, and nuclear war. And it isn’t just the music which makes Grease 2 so bad: the story-line falls flat with less budding romance, more temperamental attraction; the sets have are lacking; the notorious T-Birds have lost their cool; and even returning characters have failed on the charm front with fan favourite Frenchie inexplicably disappearing midway through the film.
However the film would not be a cult classic if it didn’t have something more than its popular predecessor to draw in the crowds. Some of this more enamoured group would even argue that Grease 2 is better than the original because despite its flaws, it is the more progressive of the two, and the more politically and culturally aware. The film mentions the nuclear threat multiple times, and makes reference to both the Kennedys and to space exploration, all key events in the 1960s, but more than that the film is something of a fledgling feminist.
Lead female, Stephanie, is far more Rizzo than Sandy, and it is the lead male in his infatuated state who must change himself to impress her, her rather than the other way around. Aside from this interesting role reversal, the film is full of girl power moments with lines like, “I ain’t no one’s trophy,” and Pink Lady Paulette’s refusal to let a man tell how she can or can’t dress. What’s more, while Stephanie is a trouser wearing garage worker, with more on her mind than a boy, the film doesn’t play into the “not like other girls trope.” Dedicating an entire song to a T-Bird’s attempt to trick a Pink Lady into sleeping with him, and the guys persistent attempts to control the girls, also highlights rape culture and key signs of abusive relationships, Although the film isn’t always consistent, it does attempt to say something meaningful.
In its attempt Grease 2 may stray from the tone and mood set by its predecessor but that might actually be a good thing, and without a comparison reviews might have been much warmer. As with all cult films, what the majority hates the cult following find reason to love. Grease 2 is more unique, more outspoken, (occasionally more cringe) and has a sense of humour all of its own. Its box office failure may have squashed any plans for further sequels, but the film’s direction makes the idea of modern follow-ups seem very appealing, and more importantly, relevant.