Sunday, July 22, 2018

Film review: "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" (2018)

My friend Scooter and I caught a matinee of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again yesterday. In the preceding couple of days, it was already apparent that the sequel was poised to establish itself as a formidable follow-up to the immensely popular original. Released almost ten years to the date of its predecessor, this second iteration has a distinction that the first installment failed to garner: critical praise. Yes, with a Rotten Tomatoes score at 78%, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, while not a consensus gem, is somewhat surprisingly appeasing critics with its more polished execution.

Both Scooter and I agreed that the first quarter of the film dragged a bit. It opens with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) busily preparing for the reopening of her mother's hotel. We learn early that Meryl's character Donna has indeed passed, thus striking the emotional drive for both the present-day events and flashback sequences. Considering Meryl was barely in the movie until a single scene at the end (with a touching performance of My Love, My Life), my favorite scenes were with Lily James, who plays the young Donna. She is an absolute joy to watch onscreen. Beautiful, energetic, glowing, with a light, yet lovely voice. We're given a glimpse into how she met Sophie's "three fathers." And while it was particularly silly to believe she would run into a devilishly handsome contemporary every fifty paces, it was nonetheless enjoyable to follow as their relationships unfold. I admit I developed a little crush on Josh Dylan, who plays young Bill (Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd).



Comic relief was adeptly provided by both Julie Walters (Rosie) and especially Christine Baranski (Tanya), with such irreverant quips from Tanya as "be still my beating vagina." Alexa Davies (young Rosie) and Jessica Keenan-Wyn were delightful as their twenty-something counterparts.

And then of course there's queen Cher. Portraying Ruby, Donna's mother and Sophie's grandmother, she flies in on a helicopter to crash the hotel's opening extravaganza. I told some friends that she's very Cher-y in her fun performance of Fernando with Andy Garcia, who portrays the hotel manager, Fernando, extraordinarily a former lover of Ruby's. Overall, pretty much only Meryl and Cher sounded like professional singers, but that's sort of the tone of the film, I guess, and it didn't really bother me. 

Numbers are still trickling in from the box office, but the opening weekend is likely to land around $34 million, slightly under the projected total of $40m. Worldwide, it's already hit a total of over $76 million, opening in multiple large international markets simultaneously with its U.S. release.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, part of the appeal of this film is likely the simple fact that it's fun. While there are some sentimental or even sad scenes, those moments lend the film a more touching human element, despite its often predictable, corny dialogue. I have only seen the first film once (opening weekend 2008), and frankly have had little interest in a second viewing. For part two, however, I just might have to get myself to the theater for another dose.

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I've watched it too and I feel it's leaps and bounds better than the first one which I hated (yes that strong word). It's kind of sad because Meryl carried much screen time in the first movie and it had the lion's share of the best ABBA songs yet the sequel came up tops despite being Meryl-less and featuring some lesser known tunes. I must say the cinematography and the editing were spot-on for a musical unlike the first one and Lily James was spectacular in terms of dancing and singing - to me she was the MVP. David

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  2. I loved this movie and must admit I used more than 1 tissue! Was anyone surprised at the omission of 2 very beautiful songs from the siundtract?? Hoping for a bonus tract on the DVD release which includes these songs.

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  3. Oooo, Trish I didn't notice the omissions. Which ones?

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  4. The day before you came. We were robbed. I thought they'd use it to give Meryl something amazing to do.

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  5. Also Lily James singing I Wonder, which is one of my favs that she sings.

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  6. The Day Before You Came isn't featured in the film?

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  7. I think they spoilt it by going back in time they should have done that in first movie. They had no right cutting out Meryl Streep

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  8. They didn't cut her out. She obviously refused to make a return and so they wrote the script without her. Then we she saw the quality of the script she agreed to participate.

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    2. She didn’t refuse to participate, she just didn’t want to sing 9 songs, run up a cliff, and dance around like she did in the first one again. She still wanted a part in it though.

      Regarding The Day Before You Came, I saw a theory that because of the House of Cards and Margaret Atwood references, it isn’t even about Mamma Mia at all, but it’s a lament to Trump being elected. And in an interview with Ol Parker, he mentions the song, how it’s Richard Curtis’ favorite ABBA song and Meryl just wanted to record it, and how it turned out to be “so specific” that they couldn’t find any way to incorporate it in the movie.

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    3. That's interesting to learn. I'd you read back on my previous posts I described how I thought it could have been used in the movie to great effect. I'd rather not think of this wonderful recording by Meryl to be sullied by any Trump references though. Hell be just a bad memory in time but this song is for the ages.

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  9. Just watched clips of Momma Mia for the first time tonight. Can’t wait to dive into the original, then follow onto the sequel. You describe it well- super fun and light-hearted.

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    1. I'm excited for your journey! xoxo

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  10. I read a review a few days before the premier that really suggested Meryl sang and acted The Day Before You Came in the film, and it described how the singing and acting of the song gave the film emotional heft. I really hope this was not a last minute cut.

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    1. Where did you read that?

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    2. Just want to give a spoiler alert here - there is quite a lot of detail about the film and people who haven't yet seen it may want to give this review a miss. https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-movie-review-700525/

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    3. However now reading it again I wonder whether the reporter just got the song name confused, and had actually been talking about My Love, My Life?

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