It's actually strange watching Grease 2 again after many years because it is wide screen. I think our copy was recorded off cable, back when they just cropped the edges rather than having black bars at the top and bottom. And, kids, back in my day, the television screen wasn't wide enough to show the whole movie without doing one of those things.
Immediate observation: the opening scenes of this movie move a little too quickly. It's the first day of school, it's a week later, it's bowling night, then it's time to work on the talent contest. Michael (Maxwell Caulfield) and Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer) have a two-part meet cute, with him enamored by her when she' spitting on the skirt over her capris, and then her kissing him to piss off Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed) at the bowling alley. It's both too simple and weirdly complicated. More than half an hour before "Cool Rider" gives Michael a goal and him writing essays for the T-Birds for money gives him the means.
And, it just occurred to me that knowing the lyrics to "Reproduction" when I was six might be odd.
As often happens on the first day returning to some old movie, I'm neglecting the writing. Just sitting here, singing along, and looking for more good old reviews besides my usual go to, Roger Ebert (who did not care for this movie at all.
Obviously, the central conceit for this film is a reversal of the original--the tough one is the girl, the foreigner is the guy--but Nic Holas, writing for Junkee, 23 January 2015, makes a great comparison between a few of the songs by the main couples. Stephanie's "here's where I speak my truth" moment, as Holas puts it, comes in the form of "Cool Rider". The equivalent in the original, despite the role reversal, is Sandy's "Hopelessly Devoted to You". Stephanie's song is an anthemic, (sort of) feminist take on an urge for a rugged Mr. Right; Stephanie won't be T-Bird property when she can instead be Miss Independent. Sandy, on the other hand, is stuck on the same kind of guy but is more desperately subscribing to submitting. On the other hand, what Holas calls "Pretty Boys with Feelings" comes in Danny's performance of "Sandy" and Michael's performance of "Charades." The former is basically Danny whining about him not getting to date rape Sandy, whereas the latter is Michael lamenting his inability to be himself and still have Stephanie's interest... Actually, I guess both men are lamenting being themselves; Michael's self just happens to be a little nicer.
A better comparison might be to compare "Cool Rider" to "Sandy" and "Charades" to "Hopelessly Devoted to You." I mean, that's the point. Michael is Sandy. Stephanie is Danny. And, both films offer the same problematic message--changing who you are is a perfectly acceptable way to find love. "Cool Rider" and "Sandy" are both about demanding something from your partner rather than letting them be themselves. "Charades" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" are not quite as much the same, though. They're both sad, but "Charades" suggests perhaps something a little healthier. Michael may be changing, but he longs for the person inside to matter. "Sandy" has been rejected because of who she is inside and, well, ultimately, she's going to make... I was going to call it the bigger change, but I realize it is only a bigger change because it comes so abruptly at the end of the film. It is sexist to suggest that Michael's transformation is not as big; in fact, his is probably bigger. But, we are there to see it happen, one piece at a time; we see him working the spare parts, we see him riding in the park. We don't get a similar broken montage of Sandy learning to walk in those heels, we don't see her getting her hair redone.
And, I'm trying to say something more clearly than I think I'm managing.
The message of both of these films is already problematic. I think Grease 2 gets away with it a little more because of sexist bullshit, basically. Get away with it isn't even the right phrasing; I think we all know Sandy's transformation at the end of Grease is wrong. But so is Michael's. And, it isn't just because we see his transformation happen that we accept it. But because, the young man who isn't so masculine making strides toward being more so is more socially acceptable than Sandy making strides toward being a little trashy.