Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is in the same wheelhouse as The Greatest Showman. Now whether that comes off as a compliment or a jab, will vary from person to person. Only you know where you stand on that film. Me? I find The Greatest Showman to be a broken down Perodua Kancil with a pimped out stereo system. Mamma Mia 2 is more or less the same. Here’s a movie that doesn’t care about story. It laughs at the idea of anything resembling a screenplay. It has no depth, no layers, no nuance. It’s basic, obtuse and witless. But it has fist pumping, must-sing-along song sequences. In other words, it is exactly as I expected it to be. Nay, slightly less than I expected it to be.
The film plays like The Godfather Part II — calm down, I didn’t just compare Mamma freaking Mia to one of the greatest American films ever made — in the sense that there are two stories of different time periods being told simultaneously. One takes place in the present. We follow Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she mourns her mother’s (Meryl Streep) death — of course — as well as try to fulfil her mom’s wish to turn that shack we see in the first film, into a gorgeous hotel. The other story takes place in the past. We see young Donna (Meryl Streep’s character), this time played by Lily James, as she has sex with three different men.
Despite the past being about Donna literally going on a journey, there isn’t actually much journeying. The film repeatedly tells you that Donna is going on an odyssey of self-discovery, but we don’t actually get the sense of that. So, it’s essentially about nothing.
There is no character exploration. Writer-director Ol Parker doesn’t dig deep and take us on an exhausting excursion. This movie could’ve been about a slightly conservative Donna breaking out of her shell. Sex could’ve been used as a symbol of liberation and self-actualization. And simultaneously, also used to highlight the character’s recklessness maybe, which leads her to an unplanned pregnancy. And then her decision-making process — should she keep the baby, or not?
But in reality, here’s pretty much all there is to Donna’s backstory:
She says she’s lost – catchy Abba song – sex – catchy Abba song – sex – finds dope island – sex – catchy Abba song – happy – the end.
We don’t get the sense that the character went through tough times and learned anything. There is a start point and an end point, with nothing engrossing in the middle. Mamma Mia 2 is a film where conflict is repeatedly mentioned but never once felt.
This extends to the present time story involving Sophie, too. The film starts with Sophie wanting to throw a huge party to commemorate her hotel’s opening. At the end of the movie, she does so successfully. But literally nothing happens in between. There is no arc. There are no ups and downs. The Sophie character doesn’t face any legitimate struggles.
There’s also a subplot on Sophie’s boyfriend, Sky (Dominic Cooper). Very early on in the movie, we see them break up over the phone. And then nothing happens. Nothing happens all the way to the end of the movie when the boyfriend shows up, singing and dancing. He says something cheesy along the lines of, “I realised that my place is here with you,” and that just about concludes the subplot.
What about Sophie’s grandmother (Cher)? Also, another subplot introduced at the start. We’re told that she’s an absentee grandmother. Someone who doesn’t care and never shows up for anything. Right at the end, she does show up and says, “I’m ready to be a grandmother,” and they all live happily ever after.
It’s blatantly obvious how many f*cks Ol Parker gives about the story. In case you were wondering, the answer is Z E R O. Just like The Greatest Showman, this is a movie that’s only eager to get to the next song and the next song and the next song. There’s no denying that these song sequences are wonderful, some with extensive set pieces. The ‘Dancing Queen’ one that takes place in the third act of the film, is a standout in particular. Heck, every time characters burst into a classic Abba song, I couldn’t help but have a big fat smile on my face.
But that’s all there is to this movie. In great musicals, the songs are there to drive the story forward. To create an ambience and atmosphere. To channel a particular emotion. Here, it’s the opposite. The story and characters are there simply to fill in the gaps in between songs. Mamma Mia 2 is a bunch of Abba cover music videos with random shit scribbled by a three-year-old, masquerading itself as a script to tie it all together. As a compilation of music videos, this film — if we can even call it that — does provide some form of entertainment.
Also entertaining: Lily James (hopefully someday, Lily Dashran). Despite having absolutely nothing to work with, Lily James is magnetic. Just like in Baby Driver, there is a certain allure about her that many do not possess. Every time she popped up, my eyes were glued to the screen. This woman is an American treasure, I tell ya!
The rest of the cast are clearly having a blast on set. They know that this is a relaxing, throwaway project. Worst case scenario, they phone it in. Best case scenario, they ham it up and just have fun. Thankfully, it’s the latter that happens. The film isn’t terrible, because you have fun watching actors like Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth have fun.
Anyway, Mamma Mia 2 is a film that I’m convinced a lot of people are going to enjoy. If you love The Greatest Showman, you’ll probably dig this too. If you, just like me, find that Hugh Jackman musical to be iffy at best, then you can skip this with no regrets.
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Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
Here's a movie that doesn't care about story. It laughs at the idea of anything resembling a screenplay. It has no depth, no layers, no nuance. It's basic, obtuse and witless. In other words, it is exactly as I expected it to be. Nay, slightly less than I expected it to be.