The excitement didn’t last long. Its forerunner might have been the biggest film of 1978 – but when Grease 2 came to cinemas in June 1982, it wasn’t even the biggest film that week. Or the second biggest. Released, perhaps inadvisably, in the same week as ET, Star Trek II, Rocky III and Poltergeist, it came in fifth at the box office. The reviews likely didn’t help. The New York Times said: “Grease 2 is dizzy and slight, with an even more negligible plot than its predecessor had.” Film critic Roger Ebert described it as Grease, “without the stars, without the energy, without the freshness and without the grease.” The Washington Post gave one of the few positive reviews, saying: “Grease 2 is the most serendipitous sequel in recent memory. It is an ingratiating, jubilant improvement on a crummy original.” Even with a few cheerleaders, Grease 2 grossed just over $15m at the box office, a fraction of what its predecessor made and barely covering its budget. Plans for more sequels were promptly scrapped. “They had to get to know a whole new bunch of people on a sequel to something they had watched at least five times,” Birch said in an interview, reflecting on the film’s reception.
Few may have seen Grease 2 on the big screen, but it found its audience on VHS, and many who grew up with it are now its biggest fans. “Grease 2 had always been there when I was growing up, but it was probably my mid-teens when I got hooked on it,” says Chris Clegg, creator of the Cool Rider stage show, a concert version of Grease 2 – who loves it so much he has a tattoo in its honour. “Like a lot of young gay boys, I gravitated to that camp strong female lead. Michelle Pfeiffer, in her pedal pushers, not listening to the men but just out there being her own badass… she was a bit of a feminist icon.”
A new role model?
Stephanie takes the baton from Grease’s ballsy Rizzo and runs with it. Unlike Sandy, who gets the world’s worst perm, takes up smoking and sews herself into spandex leggings to get the guy, Stephanie has no intention of changing who she is for a man. She also rejects the idea that – as a Pink Lady – she’s the “property” of the T-Birds. Or anyone’s, in fact. “Maybe I’m tired of being someone’s chick,” she says – one of the film’s most quoted lines, along with: “I ain’t no-one’s trophy” and “I kiss who I want, when I want.” She knows who it is she wants, too. “I’m looking for a dream on a mean machine,” she sings in Cool Rider, while straddling a ladder in what is probably the film’s most iconic number.