Michelle Pfeiffer made her debut in this movie and still isn’t all that happy about it, saying ” to star in the film to her age at the time, saying, “I hated that film with a vengeance and could not believe how bad it was. At the time I was young and didn’t know any better.”
The total budget for the production was $11.2 million, almost double the budget of the original, but hardly anyone* was coming back other than producer Allan Carr. He was getting $5 million for the sequel and it was three years since Grease was a success. Composers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, director Randal Kleiser and actors John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John weren’t coming back. So Carr got Patricia Birch — who choreographed the first movie — to direct and choreograph this. It’s the only theatrical movie she’d ever direct, but she did make Cyndi Lauper’s videos for “Money Changes Everything” and “True Colors.” Sadly for her, she’d also been pulled into another movie that co-producer Robert Stigwood made, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I hope she got paid enough.
You know who else was in a bad spot? Ken Finkleman. He was writing this movie and Airplane 2 while also directing that movie, all at the same time. Two hits whose original creative teams refused to come back for the bigger budgeted sequel. This, as you may guess, is usually a recipe for disaster. Speaking of projects after this with 80s singers, he’d go on to write the Madonna vehicle Who’s That Girl.
There was an idea to get Travolta and Newton-John to be a married couple that ran a gas station. Thankfully, they refused and I could keep the morbid fantasy in my head that they both drowned in Grease and the entire movie is the fantasy they have while the oxygen leaves their brains. There was also the idea to base the sequel around Jeff Conaway and Stockard Channing, who would be playing a 37-year-old — and still fabulous — teenager. They also turned it down.
While Pfeiffer was an unknown, Maxwell Caulfield was already a Broadway star. And also unlike her, his career paid the price for this movie bombing. He told MovieTome, “Before Grease 2 came out I was being hailed as the next Richard Gere or John Travolta. But when Grease 2 flopped nobody would touch me. It felt like a bucket of cold water had been thrown in my face. It took me 10 years to get over Grease 2.”
It’s 1961, school at Rydell is n session and The Pink Ladies — Sharon Cooper (Maureen Teefy, who was also Lucy Lane in another bomb we need to get to, Supergirl), Paulette Rebchuck (Lorna Luft, half-sister of Liza and one of the girls in Where the Boys Are ’84), Rhonda Ritter (Alison Price, who is also in the aforementioned Airplane 2), Dolores Rebchuck (Pamela Segall, the voice of Bobby Hill) and their leader Stephanie Zinone (Pfeiffer) — and The T-Birds — Goose McKenzie (Christopher McDonald, who most people would say is Shooter McGavin but he’s also in The Black Room), Louis DiMucci (Peter Frechette, The Hills Have Eyes Part II), Davey Jaworski (Leif Green, Joysticks) and their leader Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed from TJ Hooker!) — are battling over the fact that Stephanie just dumped Johnny.
Frenchy** (Didi Cohn) has come back to school to get her diploma and gives Michael Carrington (Caulfield) a quick tour of the school. He’s an English exchange student who coincidentally happens to be a cousin of Sandy because the UK and Australia are the same thing. He falls for Stephanie, who ends up kissing him accidentally at a bowling alley, but she’ll only date a motorcycle-riding man. Michael is smart enough to do the T-Birds homework, earning the money and the cred to get a bike of his own and becoming the mysterious Cool Rider who saves them from the Cycle Lords — formerly the Scorpions — and gets Stephanie all hot and bothered.
So yeah — mistaken identity, dudes trying to date rape their ladies by pretending a nuclear war is happening, Tab Hunter as a teacher, Olivia Newton-John’s first husband Matt Lattanzi as one of the Prep-Tones (they got married after being meeting on the set of Xanadu), Katey Segal’s twin sisters Jean and Liz, Andy Tennant (whose career somehow survived being in this, Sgt. Pepper’s and 1941), Connie Stevens as Miss Yvette Mason, Mrs. Gretzky Janet Jones as a girl who missed her last two periods and Ninja 3 and Breakin’ star Lucinda Dickie as a female greaser.
There were going to be four Grease movies*** and a TV series and everything was going to be great. Of course, it didn’t work out that way.
Except in Kannada (South India), where the script was turned into the 1987 blockbuster Premaloka.
*That’s not exactly true. Frenchy (Didi Conn), Principal McGee (Eve Arden), Coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar), Blanche Hodel (Dody Goodman), Eugene Felsnick (Eddie Deezen), Craterface (Dennis C. Stewart) and Mr. Spears (Dick Patterson) all came back for another helping.
**Frenchy disappears halfway through the movie, never to be seen again.
***The rumors that Disney made the third script as High School Musical are just that. Rumors.