Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review: Grease 2 (#CrapSequels)

World of Blackout: CRAP SEQUEL SEASON!

flms. srs bsns. We've all been there; Browsing in Blockbuster, the HMV sale or the bargain-DVD section in Sainsbury's, and we come across a plastic case which gives us an involuntary tingle of excitement. Someone's made a sequel to that movie we like! How did this slip under our radar? Why wasn't this on at our local cinema? Why are we only hearing about this now? Well, there's only one way to answer that question; it involves spending the requisite £3 and usually ends with the question 'Why did this get made, never mind how?'.

The rules for selection are as follows: 1) The film needs to be a poorly received sequel to a generally successful film (so no crap sequels to crap originals, and no crap remakes of originals), 2) Films from longer series are fine, but the choice needs to be part two of that line, 3) I'm not intending to watch any of the associated part-ones as part of this run (whether I'm familiar with them or not), so there'll be extra pressure on the crap sequel to work on its own terms. So join me as I delve into some of the crappest, most unwarranted follow-ups of all time (hopefully with a couple of underrated, misunderstood gems thrown in).

How bad can it be, right? I mean, the original was good…


#CrapSequels: Grease 2
Cert: PG / 109 mins / Dir. Patricia Birch
Year: 1982 (4 years after the first movie)

The general feeling: RT Score: 22% / IMDB Score: 4.1

This film was released in the same year as Blade Runner. Think about that for a second. And a four year gap? That's long enough to think about making a sequel, decide against it, and then have someone pester you into signing off a lacklustre cash-in slightly too late for it to feel like something organic.

It becomes apparent from the opening song 'Back To School Again' that this is going to be an exercise in acute cringing on both sides of the screen. You've got to feel sorry for the cast who signed up for this hoping to emulate (or at least continue) the success of the film's predecessor. The soundtrack occasionally attempts to ape the heady days of 1978, but in all honesty seems to owe as much to Rocky Horror as it does to Grease. That said, the film has a closer connection to the high school ethos than the last one, since the lyrics to 'Score Tonight' and 'Who's That Guy?' seem to have been written by a fourteen year-old. I know these things are notoriously difficult to judge at the time, but surely the mood on-set must have been one of pre-emptive embarrassment?

Disjointed, unengaging, and nowhere near as bitingly funny as it'd like to think it is, Grease 2 features just enough callbacks (hammered repeatedly and mercilessly home) to suggest to the audience that what they're watching is a continuation of That Film They Liked. Set two years after the original, a smattering of supporting characters remain, and it's good to see that the school's teenagers are still clearly in their mid-twenties. The principal cast of Pfeiffer, Caulfield, Luft and Zmed are intent to coast on a charm that they can't muster; indeed if Maxwell Caulfield was any more wooden he'd need to be operated by overhead wires. His screen-presence is so underwhelming that I found myself disappointed at the film's zenith when it turns out that he's not actually dead, after all.

By the time it hits the hour-mark, any half-arsed semblance of a plot has taken a back-seat to the turgid songbook, and you're just waiting for it to end. The film's cast-wide finale serves as a reminder that there's supposed to have been some character development in the previous hour and three quarters, although that's pretty difficult to achieve without actual characters. It feels like being forced to sit through a nostalgia-based musical show (where you don't know any of the songs) touring the nation's provincial theatres, starring a b-list singer from the 1960s and someone from the early stages of last year's X-Factor. As far as high-school stories go, this makes Saved By The Bell look like Back To The Future (hey, it's got a kid on a skateboard and a rendition of 'Mr Sandman, so it's practically there already, yeah?)

As crap as Grease 2 is (and it is), I think in order to be properly appalled by it I'd have to have some overriding love for the original - which I don't, really. In fairness to the sequel, it's shite on its own terms, as well as in direct comparison to Grease, but it's not a complete aberration, just an ill-judged, directionless mess.

Have you seen this before??

…but have you seen the original movie?
I have, but not for about six years or so.

Do I have to have seen the original movie?
I think you're meant to have, but in reality: no, it'll make little difference to the crapness of this.

How many of the original film's stars returned?
Didi Conn is back as Frenchy, Eve Arden returns as Principal McGee with Dody Godman back as Blanche Hodel, and Sid Caesar would go to the opening of a fridge as Coach Calhoun. Dennis Stewart returns as a different character, as does Dick Patterson.

Although despite a reasonable turnout from the supporting cast, Venice High School didn't want to reprise its role, so Excelsior Union High School had to step in.

Worth expanding into threequel territory?
Thankfully, this spelled the end of the cinematic life of the franchise, although the stage-production of Grease is, by all accounts, very good if that's your thing.

Rent it, stream it, or wait for it to be on TV?
You don't need to see this film.

Ah, but is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
If Sandy in the first movie was a visiting student from Australia, why would her cousin Michael in the sequel be from England? I mean, it's not beyond the realms of possibility, but probability?

And why is that even my question?
Is that the thing which bothered me most about this whole film?

(no, it's not)

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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