More noise than signal

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Who’s got two thumbs, isn’t a huge fan of musicals or ABBA, and is using an idiom that doesn’t make sense in an audio-only format? This guy. That’s not to say I’m anti-musical, or anti-ABBA, but I don’t seek either out. Not my cup of tea, and I’m okay with that. Which I gather is unusual for a white male with a social media account.

Following on from the phenomenally successful original, which of course I haven’t seen, apart from a clip of poor Pierce Brosnan being coerced into singing, Wikipedia informs me that this is both a sequel and a prequel to the first, with two main strands. In the present, on the idyllic, fictional Greek island of Val Verde, or something like that, Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie Sheridan is on the cusp of completing the dreams of her deceased mother Meryl Streep’s Donna, prepping frantically for a grand opening of a swish yet homely hotel.

It’s made harder by her fiancé, Dominic Cooper’s Sky, being away on business, as are two of her three fathers, Stellan Skarsgård’s Bill Anderson and Colin Firth’s Harry Bright. Pierce Brosnan’s Sam Carmichael is around, however, and offers support, thankfully mainly through words rather than song, as are her mother’s friends and former bandmates, Christine Baranski’s Tanya and Julie Walters’ Rosie. Of course, things go awry, but though the power of family and song, it all comes together in the end. Apologies for the spoilers.

Interweaved with this, we get flashbacks to a young Donna, Lily James, graduating from university alongside young versions of Tanya and Rosie, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies, and resolving to go on a tour of Europe before heading back to her family. Of course, during this, she bumps into the young versions of Harry, Bill, and Sam, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine, and vignettes play out of their respective romance and breakups, with musical setpieces of various degrees of shoehornedness. That’s a perfectly cromulent word.

Now, great cinema this is not, and it is as cheesy as a slab of cheddar, but it’s so relentlessly good natured that you’d have to be deliberately curmudgeonly, or diametrically opposed to the design goals of the film to get no entertainment at all from it. As a non-combatant in this particular war, I’ll say in general the young cast do better with the ol’ singing and dancing, and the classic cast are quite the inverse, but there’s no bad turn in here. Indeed, given how broadly it’s played, I’m not sure a bad performance is possible.

There is, as you’d expect from a loosely strung together series of musical vignettes, no depth of plot or character. It’s more of a variety performance series of entertaining cameos, particularly from Omid Djalili and Andy García. Even if García’s sort-of duet with Cher implies they met during the Mexican–American War. Cher looks great for her age, but that’s a bit of a stretch. The double act of Christine Baranski and Julie Walters also delivers well.

Sadly, as modern day Richard Curtis is involved, there’s an element of cloying sentimentality woven clumsily amongst some almost surrealistic plot developments and comic turns more befitting Blackadder-era Richard Curtis, but not enough to spoil the overall up-beat tone and nature.

So, the point, if any, of this review is to say that I agree with the general consensus that even if you’ve no interest in what this film is nominally serving up, it’s still enough to be enjoyable, and I presume if you enjoyed the first film there’s nothing here that would stop you enjoying this just as much. Not going to make my film of the year list, by a long chalk, but I liked this a great deal more than other highly regarded films we have spoken of today.