Mama Mia! Here We Go Again

Everyone complains about sequels, and yet they keep making them. This weekend we get this, and a sequel to Equalizer (and I don’t even remember the original, which wasn’t that long ago). The first Mama Mia! was 10 years ago, and they decided to kill off Meryl Streep in the interim (spoiler alert), and cover some of the ABBA songs they didn’t get to the first time around. That means a lot of b-sides that weren’t hits, but hey…the first movie made over $600 million. Of course they’re going to do a sequel (despite how badly Pierce Brosnan and Andy Garcia sing). And speaking of Andy Garcia, once he came on screen I asked my wife, “How in the world did they get such a good cast to do this garbage?” She wondered why a Latino was working as a waiter in Greece, until Cher showed up near the end of the movie, gets of a helicopter, sees him and screams “Fernando.” She then leaned in and said, “Oh, so…they put Garcia in this just so Cher can sing ‘Fernando’ to him.”

Of this star-studded cast, two actors I love seeing on screen, are completely wasted. That would be Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard. Lily James (Downton Abbey) is cute, and her voice is serviceable; but as the young Meryl Streep, it’s hard to buy (side note: doesn’t Streep have daughters that act?). There’s nothing likable about her character. When she sings “I Kissed a Teacher” I wondered if people felt differently about that song, now that so many teachers are getting caught sleeping with students. It also makes you wonder if there should be just a bit of slut-shaming, as she did sleep with three guys around the same time, not knowing who the father of her daughter is. But I digress.

Some of the other Abba non-hits we get: Kisses of Fire, I Have a Dream, Angel Eyes, The Name of the Game, I Wonder, One of Us, and My Love, My Life. And if you’re wondering why they’d just fill it with songs you don’t know unless you’re name is Bjorn or you were born in the ‘50s or ‘60s, well…we do get Dancing Queen, and I heard an instrumental version of Take a Chance on Me a few times.

The only thing I liked about this movie was seeing Christine Baranski do her cougar thing, and the actress that played the young version of her (Jessica Keenan Wynn). Everything else about this was torture.

The story involves Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who is 25-years-old and is going to fulfil her mother Donna’s dream of turning her farmhouse into a luxury hotel. And since that’s the story, it makes sense that the man behind The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (writer/director Ol Parker) would be behind this mess. Since it takes place in Greece, that means Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were involved producing (which they also did on another horrible sequel — My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2).

This takes place a year after Donna (Meryl Streep) died. We’re never told how. We’re often shown pictures of her on the wall, which always make characters sad when they look at them. Now, that doesn’t mean she won’t show up for a song-and-dance number in spirit.

Since half the film is taking place in flashback, we see the younger Donna (James) right after she kisses teachers at Oxford in the late ‘70s and her affairs with three guys. I’m sure the women will agree with me, that they’re a lot more attractive and interesting when they go from being played by Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine….to Firth, Brosnan, and Skarsgard. Not to mention the fact that the timeline actually doesn’t work, as the older guys would be in their early 50s, and they’re in their mid-60s in real life. Sophia would also be 40 years old (if she were born in 1980), but she’s supposed to be in her mid-20s. But hey…in the musical Grease, we didn’t gripe that Stockard Channing was 34-years-old and playing a high school student.

The grand opening of the hotel is ruined by a storm, and her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper) not attending.

None of the jokes work and there’s no chemistry. But I suppose everyone will just love the good vibes. The audience at the screening broke into wild applause when it was over.

There are no evil characters to hate or upset you (unless we’re going to count Cher’s plastic surgeon, since her lack of facial movement during a song is rather disturbing).

There are a few distracting fake backgrounds, and sometimes shoddy sound mixing. This is just unrealistic stories, cheesily done, with emotional scenes that are never all that emotional.

On an unrelated note, I’m still convinced that 86.7% of every movie made today has a barf scene. This movie had one (morning sickness), and another movie coming out this weekend does (Jack Black onto the side of a VW bug).

Some people might think that a heterosexual male critic isn’t the right audience for a musical about a disco band. Well, Rotten Tomatoes already has this movie rated high, and it’s filled with male critics. And as a kid, I saw Grease and promptly went out and bought the soundtrack albums. As an adult, I saw Chicago, and went out and bought the CDs. I even gave a good review to La La Land, despite its flaws. I just don’t like bad musicals.I once saw a musical made out of all The Doors songs. That’s my all-time favorite band. I was at the opening night performance, sitting near two members of The Doors (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger). And I thought that was awful, too. It takes more than good vocalists, doing song-and-dance routines to songs you like to make a good musical.

Speaking of songs I like, the adorable movie Love, Simon started out with the protagonist playing The Kinks song Waterloo Sunset. In this, of course, we hear the popular Waterloo. And all I thought is that this is director Ol Parker’s Waterloo.

1 star out of 5.