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Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Just Average: 9.09%
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1 review, 5 user ratings

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Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Sequel That Should Have Been Subtitled "Dark Web"
1 stars

A couple of weeks ago, I was wracked with a bout of insomnia (no big surprise there) and while channel-hopping, I happened upon “Grease 2,” the sequel to the enormously popular 1978 musical film that was an equally gigantic flop when it opened in 1982. Although I personally find the film to be slightly better than the original—partly because it isn’t as smug as its predecessor and partly because then-unknown Michelle Pfeiffer maintained such a strong screen personality amidst all the dreck that it was obvious that she was going to be going places—it isn’t hard to understand why the film failed to attract even a fraction of the audience that “Grease” attracted and not just because it had the misfortune to open on the same day as an unheralded movie with the weird title of “E.T.” Basically, by the end of the film, all of the characters got what they wanted and their stories ended so tidily that there was nowhere else to go with them. Of course, plenty of sequels have been made from stories that seemed to have had conclusive conclusions but musicals, both on stage and on screen, have proven surprisingly resistant to sequels for the most part—hyped follow-ups to “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Annie” are among the biggest flops in Broadway history while the only movie musical sequels to achieve real popularity of late have been the “High School Musical” films (and even then, only the last film played theatrically).

Which brings us, lurchingly, to “Mamma Mia,” the terrifyingly successful 2008 film adaptation of the stage smash that combined a puerile storyline that suggested “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” after being thrown into a blender and the songs of Swedish supergroup ABBA and ended up with a film that seemed convinced that the mere sight of people like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan essentially doing karaoke versions of Seventies pop pap for two hours was enough to satisfy viewers. The end result was an embarrassment for all involved, of course, but enough people responded favorably to its whim of iron to make it a massive hit and talk of a sequel began soon afterwards. However, anyone choosing to make a follow-up to “Mamma Mia” would have to confront two unavoidable obstacles (three if you count personal dignity)—the first film so thoroughly tied things up for all of its characters that it would be hard to contrive another situation that would bring them all together and, perhaps more importantly, it already deployed pretty much all of the key ABBA hits, mostly leaving behind album tracks and B-sides. Most sane people would have called it a day after looking into those hitches but the words “sanity” and “Mamma Mia” have rarely appeared together in the same sentence in a non-ironic context and thus we have “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” The fact that the title is the only part of the film that demonstrates any actually traces of wit and subtlety should give you an idea of what to expect from a movie so epically dunderheaded that it makes the first “Mamma Mia” look borderline endurable by comparison.

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that trying to contrive a completely new story for a followup, the screenwriters have instead elected to intertwine two different narratives that mostly rehash what was seen the first time around. In the present day story, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), along with her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) have elected to honor the memory of her late mother Donna (Meryl Streep) by opening a hotel on the very same Greek island where she raised her as a single mother after getting knocked up by one of three guys she met in her younger days—repressed Brit Harry (Colin Firth), garrulous Swede Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and hunky architect Sam (Pierce Brosnan)—with the aid of all of the island locals and suave and gentlemanly manager Fernando (Andy Garcia). Alas, things are not running smoothly—she and Sky are fighting because he has just been offered a cushy job in New York and while her mom’s best pals, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), show up in time to do their “AbFab” impressions, a storm hits that will prevent all the guests she invited to the hotel’s kickoff party from coming. Clearly the hotel and Sophie’s dream of fulfilling her mother’s dream of being a hotelier are doomed and there is no possible way that a happy ending could emerge from the wreckage.

As for the B story—which probably isn’t fair since both of the stories seem like subplots to a main storyline that never quite appears—we go back in time to 1979 when the young Donna (Lily James) has just graduated from Oxford (with a rendition of “When I Kissed the Teacher” serving as her valedictorian speech) and is eager to see the world and stay away from her largely absent mother, a renowned Vegas lounge singer. She sets off for a remote Greek island that was once said to have been the last port of call before the end of the world and along the way meets and beds the young versions of Harry(Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). There is romance, quickly followed by despair, heartbreak, bonding with young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies) and the sudden need to regurgitate that surprisingly has nothing to do with the fact that everyone is singing ABBA songs. Oh yes, singing. It seems that everyone is willing to drop everything in a heartbeat in order to bust out with another ABBA tune. Of course, since the songs are supposed to reveal the innermost personal thoughts and feelings of the characters, one has to surmise that in the “Mamma Mia” universe, the actual group ABBA does not exist. In other words, a perfect world as long as you can land on a more palatable island, like Molokai or the place that went ker-blooey in “Jurassic World.”

Look, I am all for whimsical effervescence in my moviegoing but “Here We Go Again” somehow manages to come across as both too fizzy for its own good and too flat to be believed. While the first film was pretty insipid throughout, it at least had something reasonably close to a story to help move things along. This one, by comparison, cannot manage to muster one compelling narrative despite containing two different storylines—the present-day story involving the hotel opening and Sophie’s dreams/fears about her future could not be more aimless and less interesting while the flashback stuff doesn’t really do anything but offer up an origin story that was already pretty much covered in enough depth the first time around. To try to cover up for the lack of any compelling story, writer-director Ol Parker tries to distract viewers with a relentless array of production numbers, which might have helped things if they were staged and executed with even the vaguest amount of style or flair. I don’t want to say that the musical numbers here are clunky but for the most part, they make “The Pirate Movie” seem like Bob Fosse’s Greatest Hits by comparison. Speaking of greatest hits, having used most of the big hits the first time around, the film is reduced to deploying the lesser lights of the ABBA catalogue and eventually, it throws in the towel and starts including tunes used in the first one in an attempt to goose up excitement. It doesn’t help though since the chief attraction of the first film—the sight of Meryl Streep singing and dancing in a bubble-headed musical—is not a factor this time around (her actual on-screen presence her barely qualifies as a cameo) and the sight of Lily James and her aggressively bland suitors pick up the musical slack is not exactly a fair trade. At least they are passable in this regard, which is more than one can say for Pierce Brosnan, whose singing was righteously roasted the first time around. Astonishingly, he gets yet another chance to croon and, at the risk of being cruel, what he does to his sons should only be legal on Purge Day.

As “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” plods along on its endless way (it clocks in at just under two hours and makes you feel every damn second), the closest it comes to generating any real sense of drama is from inspiring viewers to wonder “Where the f#&@ is Cher?” Yes, as everyone probably knows by now, the legendary performer appears here in the present-day storyline as Donna’s distant mother (just don’t go to IMDb to check the ages of her and Streep) who crashes the party in order to bond at long last with granddaughter Sophie. What they don’t know from those ads is that she does not show up until three-quarters of the way through the running time, though based on what is contained in those previous 90 minutes, one can hardly blame her for not wanting to arrive early. That said, she proves to have been worth the wait because she gives the proceedings a badly needed shot of energy. Having survived everything from an endless parade of tacky variety shows to “Burlesque,” she knows how to handle campy trash of this sort and does so with such energy and humor that when her big moment arrives—when she and Andy Garcia sing a bewildering and lyrically inappropriate duet on “Fernando”—she sells it so well that even the ABBA haters in the audience may find themselves cheering her efforts. After seeing her, most viewers will definitely want to see Cher in another movie musical as soon as possible, as long as it isn’t named “Mamma Mia 3,” of course.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31330&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/19/18 14:02:37
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User Comments

8/13/18 Bob Dog Better than I ever imagined a Mamma Mia sequel could be. 4 stars
8/08/18 the giver of the law Sorry Louise, i have to agrre with Speilberg on this one. 1 stars
7/30/18 Rich It was a lot of fun! 5 stars
7/23/18 Louise Honestly, it wasn't THAT bad! Not as good as the original but still fun. 3 stars
7/21/18 Steven Speilberg Quite atrocious and so embarrassing to an almost unwatchable degree. 1 stars
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  20-Jul-2018 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2018


  DVD: 23-Oct-2018

Directed by
  Ol Parker

Written by
  Ol Parker

  Lily James
  Amanda Seyfried
  Hugh Skinner
  Josh Dylan
  Jeremy Irvine

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