Yes, I am one of those people who thinks Grease 2 is superior to Grease and I’m here to tell you why. For decades, defenders of the sequel have been forced to accept that Grease is the one that everyone wants (oo-oo-oo, honey). And, sure, it’s a classic, but the thing that makes Grease 2 better is that it has a cooler, more relatable, and much more progressive female lead. Michelle Pfeiffer sings and dances her way into our hearts in her feature debut as Pink Ladies leader Stephanie Zinone (talents she’d take to a whole new level years later in The Fabulous Baker Boys.) Kicking off her senior year by dumping her T-Bird boyfriend Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed), Stephanie’s “tired of being someone’s chick” despite a Pink Ladies code that says she’s “T-Bird property” until graduation. Zinone is a rebel and she’s not afraid to break a few rules to live life the way she wants. She’s tough as nails and ten times the role model than the hopelessly devoted Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) ever was.
Right off the bat Stephanie is a stronger character than Sandy, mainly because she’s not interested in being defined by some guy. All Sandy ever wanted was Danny Zuko (John Travolta). So much, in fact, that she was willing to give up her identity to become the type of girl he wanted her to be. And while it’s certainly entertaining to watch Sandra Dee put on some red heels and black leather, the message is that who she was wasn’t good enough. On the contrary, Stephanie believes she deserves better than a hot-headed bully like Johnny and is content on her own until the ideal guy comes along. When Sandy’s cousin Michael Carrington (Maxwell “Rex Manning” Caulfield) enrolls at Rydell High, he’s immediately smitten with Stephanie. At first, she shoots down all his advances. And in what I think is the best song across both movies, Stephanie reveals her very specific type: She wants a whole lot more than the boy next door, she wants hell on wheels.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Michael sets out to transform himself into the “Cool Rider” of Stephanie’s dreams, in turn making him the Sandy of Grease 2. Therefore, it’s easy to label the sequel as just a gender swapped version of the original, except for the fact that Michael and Stephanie surpass Danny and Sandy in the end by not pressuring each other to be something they’re not. By the time Michael’s true identity is revealed, Stephanie is smitten with him as well and accepts him for who he is: “All that you are is all that I need, no more pretending.”
Aside from more progressive characters and a better overall message, the sequel also has a soundtrack that rivals the original. While I’m sure most movie fans are more familiar with the tunes from Grease – given that we’ve all heard them a hundred times since its release in 1978 – there are just as many memorable songs in the sequel. Apart from “Cool Rider” most of my favorites take place at the local bowling alley, including “Score Tonight” and “Who’s That Guy”. As is generally the case with musicals, each movie has a few numbers we wouldn’t mind skipping to get to the good stuff (for me they’re “Beauty School Drop-Out” and “Do It for Our Country”). But in Grease 2 when a biology lesson becomes the sexual innuendo laden number “Reproduction” you’re glad you stuck around.
Yes, Grease 2 is a cheesy musical in which the entire cast sings and shimmies their way back to school at Rydell High. And if that weren’t enough strikes against it, it’s also the follow-up to a movie lauded for decades as a classic of the genre. But I assure you that for every girl that wanted to be Sandy, there’s another one that wanted to be Stephanie. In fact, I don’t know many girls who wouldn’t want to be the leader of the Pink Ladies or take the pledge to act cool, to look cool, and to be cool. As far back as fifth grade I remember wanting to be like Stephanie. I spent recess teaching my girlfriends the words to “Cool Rider” and asked my grandma if she could make us our very own Pink Ladies jackets. Sadly, I never got a jacket back then. But in 2014 I finally got the chance to be Stephanie Zinone for Halloween. Cause even after all these years, that self-assured and independent girl is just as c-o-o-l as she was when I first saw her rule the school.