Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

OL PARKER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5.  /USA, 2018.  , .  Story by , Ol Parker, , Screenplay by Ol Parker, based on a conception by from the stage musical by Catherine Johnson.  Cinematography by .  Produced by Judy Craymer, .  Music by , , .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

The follow-up to the biggest hit musical film of all time takes a page from The Godfather Part II, presenting both a sequel and prequel at the same time and, much like in the Coppola’s masterpiece, and in line with the first Mamma Miamakes us wonder if murderous, armed gangsters really are a bad thing.  ‘s Sophie is mourning the loss of her mother () but paying tribute to her by hosting a grand reopening of their idyllic island hotel.  Her feelings prompt flashbacks to 1979 when young Donna (played by ) breaks with convention by abandoning the promise of an Oxford degree, running away to Greece in order to not have a job and become a single mom (good for you!)  Actually, the mom part isn’t originally in the cards, but as we know from the first film, she does meet up with three cute guys in short succession and loses her head (and, because the sun is shining and everyone’s skin is gorgeous, her knickers) very quickly with all of them;  since the film needs to be palatable for kids (at least for kids whose parents can handle lines like “be still my beating vagina”), director Ol Parker doesn’t just avoid the doing of sex but strangely cuts out the wanting of it too, it sort of seems to happen before any of these dewy young people know it (except the gay one, of course, who has something to prove).  Donna’s two best girlfriends ( and a spot-on performance by , the only one of the cast’s Muppet Babies who could convincingly grow up to be their adult counterpart) show up to support their friend’s new life, while in the present day the now older women ( and , who have maintained the same hairstyles for decades) show up to help Sophie with the grand opening and deal with her estrangement from her boyfriend Sky ().  Every single one of these plot points is, unsurprisingly, the barest excuse to bust out one ABBA song after another, and this film’s greatly improved musical direction (and higher rate of actors who can actually sing) repeats a few hits from the original while adding such lovely choices as “I’ve Been Waiting For You,” “The Name of the Game” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You”.  And then there’s :  make all the jokes you want and call it the worst case of stunt casting known in years, but in her brief appearance as Donna’s mother (WHAT?) Cher is, as always, simultaneously wonderful and ridiculous, belting out “Fernando” with such style and commitment that she puts the rest of the cast to shame.  Following it with Streep’s Phantom of the Opera-style moment as a ghost singing a beautiful rendition of “My Love, My Life” is a simultaneously lovely and campy touch, but whose idea was it to end the film on three ballads before the encore?  Not that this is the oddest failure of this movie, as the soppy screenplay has dialogue almost as atrociously bad as the first time around (despite the participation of none other than Richard Curtis), and fails to justify all the dramatic situations it barely spends any energy setting up.  We suspected that we did not need Donna’s past dramatized (since nothing is revealed that wasn’t already narrated) and it’s proven true, while the present day scenes make very little of the situations they set up (a storm ruins the party which is then fixed in a minute, and Sophie and Sky seem to forget that they were having any problems).  Parker avoids the stagy performances that Phyllida Lloyd thought were appropriate last time, making this one far easier to sit through, but the only reason you’ll like it is because you’re not stupid enough to expect it to be good in the first place.

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