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page created: 9/4/03

The Bottom Shelf by Adam Jahnke

On Knowing One's Place:
The Big Emotional Spielberg Ending

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Before we start, I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who wrote in following my last column. I've tried to reply to all of you but there was a bunch, so in case I missed anybody, I wanted to thank you all publicly. 99.9% of you who wrote had extremely nice things to say about The Bits and I think I speak for all of us here when I tell you how extremely gratifying that was. In some cases... jeez, you'd think I'd written a suicide note or something, considering all the people urging me not to listen to the nay-sayers and to keep on keeping on. Well, don't worry, folks. I'm here for awhile. I'm sure you'll all sleep better knowing that.

Best of all, I heard from quite a few of my fellow critics who are toiling away out there in the netherworld of the World Wide Web. My particular thanks to them for writing in since, believe it or not, this whole Internet thing can be pretty insular at times. Even though he's just a (relatively) short trip down the 405 from me, I only see Bill Hunt live and in person once or twice a year. And I've never even met this Todd Doogan character and quite frankly, doubt whether or not he even exists. So let me just give a big "Word up, my bruthas" to my fellow critics around the world who dropped me a line: Ron Epstein and Herb Kane over at the Home Theater Forum, Mark Oates at DVD, Josh Zyber at DVD File, Thor van Lingen at The Box Set, and Ed Peters at DVD Review. And a great big hug to Moriarty from Ain't It Cool News. No hard feelings, right, pal?

Now if you'll all excuse me, I'm about to flush all that much-vaunted critical respectability I whined so hard to get right down the crapper...

Whither Zmed? - The Genius of Grease 2

Grease 2

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Grease 2
1982 (2003) - Paramount

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Film Rating: A (on the Bizarro World scale of bad musicals)

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/F

Specs and Features:

114 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, keepcase packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (layer change at 44:54, between chapters 8 and 9), film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0 Surround) and French (2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

When I was growing up, we didn't have cable TV at our house. We had a satellite dish. In the early 80's, this was a big deal. This meant we had a huge dish in our backyard, the kind that these days you only see atop CNN world headquarters, and with a little patience and a delicate touch on the receiver, we could get pretty much any video signal that was beamed into outer space. With the world at my fingertips, I naturally spent most of my time watching the same bad movies over and over. If you think HBO and Showtime repeat the same programming a lot these days, you should have seen 'em back when they were just getting started. But there were some movies that seemed to crop up more often than others and of these, there were a few that had a Svengali-like grip on my attention span. If I stumbled across them while I was scanning the skies, I had to stick it out to the bitter end, despite the fact that even then I knew that none of them were really that good. In fact, some were downright awful. Case in point: one of the most reviled movies of the decade, Grease 2.

After the blockbuster success of the original Grease in 1978, a sequel was basically a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately for producers Robert Stigwood and Allan Carr and the execs at Paramount, most of the cast decided to pass on returning to Rydell High. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were presumably too busy getting ready for their 1983 reunion vehicle, Two of a Kind, a movie that makes Grease 2 look like Singin' in the Rain. But nobody in Hollywood has ever let a little thing like star disinterest deter them from a potentially profitable follow-up. So Stigwood and Carr shanghaied a few original cast members, including Didi Conn, Eve Arden, Dody Goodman, and Sid Caesar, into returning and started over with a new class of seniors.

The movie's plot (if we can charitably refer to the series of events that occurs in Grease 2 as a plot) is paint-by-numbers simple. Sandy's equally goody-two-shoes cousin Michael (who hails from England instead of Australia for some reason) arrives at Rydell for his senior year. Within minutes, he finds himself irresistibly attracted to Stephanie, the new leader of the Pink Ladies. But as anyone who remembers the first movie will recall, Pink Ladies can only date T-Birds and if you have even half a brain, you can figure out the rest of the movie from there.

Now I can understand if you were a huge fan of the original Grease why you might take Grease 2 as a personal insult. Paramount apparently has a 1970's-set Grease 3 in the works and if it happens and if it's any good, Grease 2 will go down in history as a colossal missed opportunity. It might have been somewhat amusing to set the second movie in the late 60's instead of 1961, a year which is essentially indistinguishable from the original's 1959. Rydell High during the Summer of Love, perhaps? But then again, if you see Grease 2 as an affront to the dignity of the original Grease, you're taking both these movies waaaaaay too seriously.

If Grease 2 had actually been made in 1961 and starred Elvis, I'd be willing to bet a lot of people would be a lot more forgiving of it. After all, most of Elvis's movies really sucked and it's not a huge leap to go from real Elvis songs like "Rock-A-Hula Baby" and "There's No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car" to Grease 2's "Rock-A-Hula Luau" or "Let's Do It For Our Country". But let's face it. Maxwell Caulfield is no Elvis. And while Michelle Pfeiffer is something of an Ann-Margret, she stumbles through her first big movie role with an "Is this why I wanted to become an actress?" expression of horror on her face.

Except for the bland Caulfield and the oft-distracted Pfeiffer, the rest of the cast actually seems to be enjoying themselves. Liza Minnelli's sister, Lorna Luft, isn't bad and has one of the better singing voices here, so of course she isn't given nearly enough to sing. Christopher McDonald, who'd later become much better known as the bastard husband in Thelma & Louise, is just fine as one of the T-Birds. He's certainly no worse than Jeff Conaway in the first one. Tab Hunter and Connie Stevens fill the bona-fide-stars-of-the-era-in-cameo-roles parts vacated by Frankie Avalon and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes in the original Grease. America's favorite 80's nerd, Eddie Deezen, also turns up, oddly seeming to reprise his original role as Eugene (one would assume Eugene would have graduated by now but apparently his social awkwardness isn't masking a Bill Gates-like supergenius. I can only conclude that Eugene is in fact mildly retarded, so kudos to Deezen for adding these subtle shades of character to his role). And if there is such a thing as a quintessential Adrian Zmed performance, Grease 2 is it.

But any musical stands or falls on its music and in that respect, Grease 2 is a veritable wonderwall of amazingly stupid production numbers. The mildly naughty double entendres of songs like "Greased Lightning" have been replaced with the ham-fisted single entendres of songs like "We're Gonna Score Tonight" (arguably the worst musical number ever set in a bowling alley) and "Reproduction". "Cool Rider" is still one of my favorite bad songs of all time, particularly as the song begins to fade out and Michelle Pfeiffer sings and dances her way across the school courtyard... and Caulfield and the rest of the school just kind of stand there and watch her go.

When I assign letter grades to DVD's, I have to start from the assumption that every movie deserves to be a special edition. Well, that's just not true and if there's a movie that deserves less respect on disc than Grease 2, I haven't seen it. So for the most part, I'm perfectly happy with Paramount's new disc. It looks pretty darn good and is even enhanced for widescreen TV's, if you can believe that. Even more astonishing, they've given Grease 2 a new 5.1 surround mix that sounds very nice. Well... it still sounds like Grease 2, but you know what I mean. It isn't the most full-bodied 5.1 mix I've heard but I'm surprised they even went to this much trouble. As for extras...come on. What do you expect? Actually, I guess I expected the trailer, if nothing else, so that was mildly disappointing.

There is absolutely no defending Grease 2. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the worst sequel of all time. On the sequel scale, I'd rank it somewhere below The Empire Strikes Back and somewhere above Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. But for connoisseurs of bad cinema, there's nothing quite as satisfying as a real fiasco like this one coming from a major studio. Grease 2 has everything bad movie lovers could ask for. Awful music, club-footed choreography, weird casting, stilted dialogue, lazy "action" sequences, even major continuity errors. If you're looking for Hollywood musical madness at its worst (and admit it, some of you are and you know who you are), Grease 2 will fit nicely on your shelf right next to Anchor Bay's Can't Stop the Music. At least until Universal releases Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

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