MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN review

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For my review of the first movie, click the following link: MAMMA MIA! (2008)

Ugh… this thing. For over a week, I’ve been dreading this. Before seeing the first movie, I was mostly indifferent to the sequel. A bouncy, dumb musical that I didn’t think would be good, but… I don’t know, I wasn’t dreading to see it. But then I saw the first movie and I’ve never felt more disgusting in my life. Okay, that’s entirely not true, but sitting through it was an absolute endurance test of patience, sanity, and intelligence. If I’m not mistaken, I even had my own conspiracy theory that this is actually not a peppy musical about a young girl discovering who her father was, but rather an in depth study of different kinds of mental illness.

Now before any of you die hard fangirls and boys out there ready to cry out that I’m just a man who only likes superhero movies and mindless violence… you’re not wrong, but with that said, I love romantic comedies. I’ve likely said this before, but I’m going to say it again anyway. Before ever seeing mindlessly violent movies, I was practically raised on rom-coms. Among my favorites include NOTTING HILL (1999), LOVE ACTUALLY (2003), SERENDIPITY (2001), IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), BORN YESTERDAY (1950), among many, many others. So none of you can say that I don’t like rom-coms. I just like good rom-coms. Just like I don’t like every superhero or action movie that exists, I don’t like every single rom-com, as there’s always a sliding scale of quality in terms of storytelling, humor, and well-defined characters. MAMMA MIA! had none of that.

But that’s neither here nor there any longer. This is about this movie.

The story looks like it’s about Sophie being pregnant and learning more about her mother Donna’s youth, and Donna may or may not be dead.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Amanda Seyfried (ANON [2018], THE LAST WORD [2017], and TED 2 [2015]), Lily James (SORRY TO BOTHER YOU [2018], BABY DRIVER [2017], PRIDE, PREJUDICE, ZOMBIES [2016], and BURNT [2015]), Pierce Brosnan (THE FOREIGNER [2017], and upcoming films THE KING’S DAUGHTER [2018] and FINAL SCORE [2018]), Stellan Skarsgård (OUR KIND OF TRAITOR [2016], AVENGERS: ULTRON [2015], and upcoming films MUSIC, WAR AND LOVE [2018] and OUT STEALING HORSES [2019]), and Colin Firth (KINGSMAN 2 [2017], BRIDGET JONES 3 [2016], and upcoming films THE HAPPY PRINCE [2018] and KURSK [2018]). In support, we have Jeremy Irvine (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of, and upcoming films THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN [2018] and THE LAST FULL MEASURE [2018]), Josh Dylan (ALLIED [2016], and the upcoming THE LITTLE STRANGER [2018]), Hugh Skinner (STAR WARS: LAST JEDI [2017]), Andy Garcia (BOOK CLUB [2018], GEOSTORM [2017], MAX STEEL [2016], and upcoming films ANA [2018] and IRON SKY: THE ARK [2018]), and Cher (stuff I’ve not seen or heard of). 

Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Ol Parker, known for stuff I’ve never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Anne Dudley, known for ELLE (2016), and upcoming films THE HUSTLE (2018) and BENEDETTA (2018). The cinematographer is Robert D. Yeoman, known for LOVE & MERCY (2015). Finally, the editor is Peter Lambert, known for THE DEATH OF STALIN (2018).

Overall… just kill me. Please. It’ll be merciful compared to everything else.

This is my honest opinion of: MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

 

(SUMMARY)

Set five years after the first film. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is hard at work nearing the grand re-opening of her mother’s Greek hotel, Hotel Bella Donna, in commemoration of her passing one year ago. She’s visited by her mother’s friends Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), as well as one of her fathers, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), but others are too busy to see the re-opening. But as the time grows nearer and the stresses of being separated from her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper), she begins to learn more about her young Donna (Lily James) and her early adventures that brought her to the island and met the men that would ultimately lead to her pregnancy with Sophie.

(REVIEW)

Mmph… I won’t say that it’s good, because it’s not, BUT… I admit… there were a few aspects that I liked.

Let’s appease the fangirls and boys first. For one thing, I’ve never really been that big a fan of Meryl Streep. Ha! Yes, “appease” I said, but did you think I wasn’t going to let my compliment be backhanded? Don’t think too highly of me, y’all. Anyway, it’s true. I’ve never seen that movie that made me think that she was “the best actress of all time.” I just haven’t. Nearly all of the movies I’ve seen of her range from her performance being passable to downright awkward. Lily James, on the other hand, has always captivated me, despite being an up and coming actress. Whereas Streep was really awkward and not always a very good singer in the first movie, James is far more natural as the adventurous and energetic woman. And is a much better singer… provided that it’s actually her singing the songs (it is: https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Lily-James-Really-Singing-Mamma-Mia-Here-We-Go-Again-45053862). In fact, James’ energy and talent is so infectious that I’d catch myself smiling… and then immediately shake it off because @#$% this movie. Still, I much prefer James here than Streep. She is bar-none the star that shines the brightest here. Yes, yes, Seyfried’s not bad, and even Streep’s brief cameo in the end isn’t terrible, but James steals the show big time. In fact, I’m going to just say it… if this movie were to get a third follow-up featuring only James and how to managed to get a hotel up and running while caring for a baby all on her own, I’d be totally down for that.

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Some other appreciative details, breaks between songs! I remember the first one went overboard with the music and would even literally jump from one song to another. Thankfully, scenes are allowed to have actual talking in this movie, so I’ll take a victory, despite that this was getting tested in some areas. More on that later, though. I also admit to enjoying the “One of Us” number. There were some fun camera angles and framing. While not exactly the most impressive feat in cinematic history, compared to the bland crap we were privy to in the last movie, this was a huge step up. Also, Jeremy Irvine, who plays young Sam, is a far better singer than Brosnan… who remains a terrible singer. And hey! An appropriate use for “Dancing Queen!” While I think it’s still awkward to be calling the now-thirty-three year old Seyfried a “young and sweet seventeen,” I concede that Sophie is twenty-five years old, AND is actually heading out with a group of people to a party! Okay, it’s closer to a family reunion of her and her other two fathers and bringing them and their legion of party guests to the party, but it’s better inserted here than in the last movie! I’m grasping for victories here, people. Cut me some slack.

And finally, this was a welcomed surprise, this movie wasn’t afraid to add in a slow song. Its predecessor was way too loud and obnoxious, and while this movie isn’t exactly different, at least it has legitimate talent to back it up and make it much more tolerable. But this movie adds at least two slower songs. I forget the very last one where Streep makes an admittedly heartfelt appearance, and sings rather well given her track record, but the one that really stood out for me was “I’ve been waiting for you.”

But now it’s time to go for the negatives. Don’t think they weren’t coming, you saps.

We start this movie off with some pretty big stupidity. So Sky is in New York for work and has been offered a full-time position, meaning big money, but he would have to be in New York. This means that Sophie would have to abandon the hotel that she just finished repairing in honor of her mother. We know and understand with Sophie for not wanting to. The hotel is her home and she feels attached to it. Anyone can agree with that. Sky, on the other hand, is a big fat queef. I have no idea if his business in New York was ever explained, but the audience isn’t given a good explanation why this job is worth telling Sophie to give everything up. Again, Sky remains a terrible and unsupportive character and it’s a wonder why she married him, will eventually have a baby with him, and would make a poetic kind of sense if she had to raise her son alone while Sky dicks off at his new job.

For a woman whose death should be a lot more impacting, I don’t know if I like how Tanya is telling Rosie to pipe down whenever Donna’s name is mentioned. I think it’s for comedic effect that she literally cries when someone says Donna’s name, but a death, even one year later, can still have a lasting emotional response on someone. Everyone copes differently and I didn’t exactly think it was funny of Tanya to be telling Rosie to not feel sad about Donna’s death. It feels a little too mean-spirited, especially since she barely talks about it or shows emotion regarding it.

Hugh Skinner can’t act! Ugh… I feel so mean saying it like that, but this guy’s acting was driving me up the God-damned walls with how annoyingly he was portraying young Harry. I guess the dude can sing okay, but by God I was more than delighted to know that his only appearance in the movie was the one. And he’s not even an interesting character. In fact, more than anything, he’s kind of creepy. Within the first hour of meeting Donna, he’s utterly convinced that he’s in love. Look, I’ve been been known to fall in love incredibly quickly, but even I have the good sense to know to not say that out loud and to acknowledge that the feelings wouldn’t be mutual this early in the game. Yet, he sings “Waterloo” where one of the lyrics is, “I tried to hold you back,” and it’s him that sings that line. Um… no you didn’t, Harry. In fact, you took a nose dive right into that glass of water without a moment’s hesitation. It would make more sense if Donna sang that line, but “more sense” is the operative phrase. Harry has not been even remotely charming, so it already makes no sense that this strong-willed young woman would even pay attention to this miserable wreck of a boy, let alone be horny enough to subject herself to his sexual urges and clear desperation to lose his virginity. Thank God it was just him that was awful, or else I would have likely needed to walk out of the theater for a quick breather.

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Also, what was the point of the sideplot of bringing the fisherman to the woman that he loves who is about to get married to a dude that she doesn’t love? I mean, yes, this plays a role at the end to get both Harry and Bill to the island when they miss their ferry, but this is a pretty big detour just to have a payoff that ends with a musical number and the older version of these characters barely having any screen time. Bill had a boat when he was a younger man, didn’t he? Couldn’t that have made some kind of reappearance? Like, he sold it to a friend who says he can use it whenever he wants? I don’t know, something that doesn’t need such a shift in direction. Also, during this earlier scene, I also love how neither of these two people, the fisherman and the woman he was swimming for, could swim and were possibly drowning. Yet there’s Donna… cheering them on… way to gauge the situation there, blondie.

Did anyone else think that “Knowing Me, Knowing You” was a pretty useless song to include? I’m more than certain that this number only lasted a minute. I doubt it lasted more than half of the original song’s length, so why bother having it? Also, the song does line up with the context of the scene. The scene in question is about how Donna found out about Sam’s engagement to another woman and he’s leaving to be with her. However, the song has some pretty heavy implications that the story of the song is about an on-and-off relationship finally giving it the burial that the two respective sides need. Donna and Sam have not broken up and gotten back together over and over again. It was just the one time.

The same can also be said about the repeated use of “Mamma Mia.” I suppose, in hindsight, it would be weird for a movie titled “Mamma Mia” to not sing the song it’s based on, but still. While the rendition out of James is significantly better than Streep’s, again, the scene doesn’t match up to what the song is about. I said this in my previous review, but I’ll say it again. The song is about an on-and-off relationship that the singer is jumping back into, but that’s not what the scene was about. Donna has lost all three great lovers and is also down in the dumps because no one’s shown up to enjoy the restaurant and her singing with the Dynamos. Maybe someone could argue it’s weird-ass foreshadowing? After all, it’s right after this song that Bill shows up for round two, but that’s a huge stretch in what this movie would want me to buy into. All assuming, of course, that’s even what the song’s function was. Everything I just talked about repeats the same problems from the last film. It’s like no one putting these movies together really cares about whether or not they line up. Just insert them into the movie because they’re ABBA songs and they’re about a break-up, never caring about the details in the song itself. Lazy as all hell, man.

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At some point, I feel like the flashbacks to young Donna were starting to get unnecessary. While I stand by that James was my favorite actress, and her Donna was my favorite character, I feel like on a narrative standpoint, we saw what we needed to see. She met and had sex with Harry. Sweet. She met and had sex with Bill. Cool. She met and had sex with Sam. You go, girl. But when Sam leaves, we really didn’t need another scene with Bill returning, only to leave again too. I mean… what was the point? We can all assume that she got pregnant at some point. It just seemed like unneeded fluff.

Oh, and can someone tell Cher to swallow her damned pride for one minute, or tell the makers of the movie to piss off with their gushing of the real-world singer! I have no idea who to blame here, but there is no way that Cher is a grandmother to Seyfried. Okay, maybe she could be, but the implication here is that Cher is Streep’s mother… umm… shut the @#$% up, Cher is approximately three years older than Streep! Either someone needs to learn how to do math and hire a much older woman to play the role (and Cher being told she’s too young to play a grandmother would likely be an enormous compliment), or Ruby Sheridan had that Peruvian girl who gave birth at five years old should consider traumatic counseling together. Point is, I don’t buy that Ruby is any older than older Donna. They look the same age (BECAUSE THEY ARE). Oh, and but of course, give her two songs to sing. Because, you know, she’s only in the final fifteen bloody minutes of the movie and had SUCH an impact on the story that she absolutely deserves two songs. Blow me.

Bill has a fatter twin brother, by the way! Did you know that? Did you care? No? Me either! But it’s a fact! And it’s stupid! Did you also ever care about the relationship between Bill and Rosie? No? Neither did I. But the movie thinks we did, so time was dedicated to them. Near-two hour movie and at least twenty minutes of pure padding.

Overall, no the movie is ultimately not good. It still has some awful characters, rehashed problems of poor use of ABBA songs, shameless fan service, and a prolonged runtime that could have easily been chipped away. With all that said, this wasn’t nearly as much of a chore to sit through as the first one, and dare I say it, some of it was even enjoyable to watch. James was outstanding and I hope she continues to sing in some capacity in the future, be on an album for a solo music career or more musicals in film, she’s going to have my support whatever she chooses. Some of the comedy shines through, and I’d be lying if the ending didn’t have emotional weight to it. As a recommendation… eh, fans of the original will likely love it, but as for anyone else… I’d say this won’t change your mind. Save it for a rental if you’re that curious, but really watch the first one. If you couldn’t stomach that, or you’re not a fan of ABBA, then that should be your answer right there. I can’t call it a bad movie, but it’s still not good either. A significant improvement over the original, but hardly up there with the great musicals of our age. Yes, here we go again, and it’s… actually not that bad.

My honest rating for MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN: 3/5

This week’s reviews:

Next week’s reviews:

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