Mamma Mia
Jessica Keenan Wynn, Lily James and Alexa Davies in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Photo: Universal Pictures)

FILM

Put your brain away and embrace Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

 It’s a fun, poppy, summer blockbuster. Nevertheless, Kate Muir has some burning questions – like, “How good is Cher?”

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By Kate Muir on

Knowing me, knowing you, you’ll find that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is less a Waterloo and more a how-can-I-resist-you moment. Pay absolutely no attention to the occasional sneering reviews – “non-stop corniness”, “toe-curling”, “escapist fluff” – because those are precisely the reasons why you’ll want to go. In a Brexit-battered, Trump-troubled summer, scientists confirm that this experience will trigger a massive release of feel-good endorphins.

The night was young and the music was high at the premiere this week, with ABBA’s back catalogue getting the full kitsch movie treatment, from Fernando to Waterloo to Knowing Me, Knowing You, with, of course, a Super Trouper finale. It’s more the B-side, since all the best songs were in the first film 10 years ago, but you can still dance, you can jive, and have the time of your life. This instalment goes back to the fecund youth of Donna, as she graduates from Oxford, makes love to three men in three weeks and spends the rest of her life as a landlady on an obscure Greek island.

Lily James plays the younger version of Streep’s Donna, while Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan and Jeremy Irvine play the young Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan, respectively. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are back as Donna’s girlfriends, and Amanda Seyfried as daughter Sophie. When all is said and done, the eye candy nicely matches the ABBA ear candy.

That said, a number of burning questions arose as I watched, and I would be keen to hear your answers when the film opens today.

Was this the last gasp of free love?

Isn’t it extraordinary that such a cheerful celebration of triply unprotected sex is a global phenomenon? At least it happened in the late seventies, before AIDS was widely known. And Donna’s predicament is a comfort for everyone who’s had a little slip-up.

What degree did Donna get at Oxford?

The movie opens in New College, Oxford, as Lily James tosses off her sub fusc and gown to reveal hotpants and gold boots as she sings “I kissed the teacher” at her graduation. (We know this is pure fantasy, as there are many black students graduating and the vice-chancellor is a woman – back in 1979.) But was Donna’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics? Maths? No, has to be classics, given her Greek obsession.

Christine Baranski’s Tanya sees the hot, mature hotel manager and says, ‘Be still my beating vagina!’

Why isn’t there more Meryl?

Without heading into spoilers, Streep is thinly spread here. We wanted more. Much more. Was she working on another movie? Perhaps co-writer Richard Curtis said “Voulez Vous?” and Meryl said “Non!”

What would TripAdvisor say?

Sophie renames the resort Hotel Bella Donna. Belladonna is, of course, the killer poison deadly nightshade, not good for the restaurant’s reputation. The director of Mamma Mia 2 is Ol Parker, the writer of the two Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, and certainly Hotel Bella Donna is less crumbling than those. Indeed, the Greek establishment looks like a Dulux home-improvement video, with all that shabby-chic charm lost and replaced with massage beds and pink feather lights from Graham & Green. **** rating.

Why does Amanda Seyfried have more wrinkles than Cher?

Cher, who plays grandmother Ruby, is 72. Amanda Seyfried, grandaughter Sophie, is 32. They have a conversation. Cher is made of palest alabaster, while Seyfried employs a full range of facial expressions.

How good is Cher’s voice singing Fernando?

Extraordinary.

Cher in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

 

How bad is Pierce Brosnan’s dad dancing?

Gobsmacking.

Who has the best line?

Christine Baranski (Tanya) sees the hot, mature hotel manager and says: “Be still my beating vagina!”

Lily James (young Donna): “It’s not easy being a mother. If it was, fathers would do it.”

Julie Walters (Rosie) gives Stellan Skarsgård (Bill) a talking to about his “wandering eye and restless groin”.

Did the original Mamma Mia inspire Love Island?

After all, both productions are all about coupling up with as many people as possible in the shortest period of time while trapped in one idyllic property. Also, fathers come to visit – in Mamma Mia 2 it’s Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgård. In Love Island, it is Danny Dyer. Pop the Love Island lasses into floaty cheesecloth tops, give them ballads to sing, and what’s the difference?

Is there a hilarious blooper reel?

Or maybe the entire film is a blooper reel anyway?

To conclude: perhaps Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is mass-market prosecco compared to the eccentric vintage Champagne of the first film. That said, there is untrammelled joy here for every generation, from twentysomethings to sixtysomethings. And the ABBA philosophy is always inspiring: “In our lives, we have walked some strange and lonely treks/Slightly worn but dignified and not too old for sex.”

@muirkate

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Jessica Keenan Wynn, Lily James and Alexa Davies in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Photo: Universal Pictures)
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Meryl Streep

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