There are constants in the universe.
Good news, right?
For instance, ABBA music is just good.
Oh, were you expecting something more serious?
Ok, how about, “The inter webs are a cold, hilarious place”? I was never not going to see this sequel.
Sidebar: Hey, Donny Trump…that’s how double negatives work!
So, yeah. I had my heart set on seeing this movie. The build up on social media in the days before its release just whet my appetite further. My favorite moment occurred on Twitter as someone let fly the outrageousness and extremely unlikeliness of three women keeping the same hairstyle for 40 years.
So brilliant, but I digress.
Anyway, it is a universal truth. I never hear anyone say the don’t like ABBA music, probably because I simply refuse to hear it.
But sometimes you think something is a constant, like “Pierce Brosnan can’t sing” only to later doubt yourself.
We’ve all seen it.
And if you love Pierce Brosnan, you’ve made excuses for what you saw. “He can sing, it’s just that his character wasn’t supposed to be able to, like Ado Annie in Oklahoma!”
Because, seriously…he’s a big star! Why would he expose himself to the ridicule a poor performance brings?
It’s not a bad bit of logic-slash-rationalization.
By the way
Not bad logic morphs into harsh reality, though, in this prequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia when we meet Pierce’s younger self.
He can also set your loins afire, too. But that’s a poor offset for the burden of having to accept the universal truth that Pierce just can’t sing.
Seriously, Pierce. Big star, remember? Get Julie Andrews to dub you or something. A ceiling tile dropped out of the theater’s roof during your number.
I can only assume that he broke auto tune, it’s the only reason I can give for why they wouldn’t have used it.
Y’know, on this inaugural post using – testing, really – the new Facebook mandated blog page versus linking to my personal page, I had a choice of topics. I promise, my choices were both feel good options that allowed me to write about something fun or positive.
Mamma Mia! or people doing good things in the world. See? Both positive topics!
I’ll get to them both eventually, but I think people are used to or expect my grumpy old man persona to come out in my writing. With Mamma Mia! I can do both. Let’s face it, ABBA music makes people happy, so that feel good moment is built in. I’ve waited a week to write about seeing this movie, to reasonably respect spoilers, which is also a kindness…so when I knock Pierce Brosnan around for not being able to sing or rip on the story, it’s only to temper your expectations.
Can’t have you thinking that I’ve turned over a new leaf just because I have a blog page on the Facebook now.
PS: I’ve already realized the motivation behind Facebook’s new rules, they are trying to generate income off these new, mandated pages.
I tend to temper my expectations with sequels. Especially sequels that come out right away…it’s like the studio is trying to get away with something. A cash grab before we realize that we’re being served up a stinker.
Here We Go Again took a decade to arrive.
Naturally, I was there for the first show…but still watching with a guarded side eye.
And some popcorn, duh.
I was checking off boxes to confirm this sequel wouldn’t be worthy:
Pierce still can’t sing ✅
They used all the best songs in the last movie ✅
The story suc…wait a minute. What’s wrong with my eyes? Why are they leaking?!?
Yeah. The story is pretty good. Not great by any means. As a stand alone first run story, this would be nothing more than a flop.
But we know these characters.
We come in pre-programmed to care about their struggles and enjoy the highs of their excitement.
I can’t avoid admitting it, the story was just better than the original. Amazing.
We know that Cher pops in to be a great grandma, we are poised to handle Sophie’s pregnancy story. Not so with the early news of Sophie and Sky’s potential estrangement.
Definitely not so of the casual drop in of Donna’s death the prior year.
So – yeah, questions that are never answered. I’m pretty sure that tidbit dropped in the first 90 seconds.
We never learn how she died. I dunno…maybe we do but I missed it because I was debating whether or not to leave the theater to verify Meryl Streep was listed with the cast on the movie poster.
But, in Meryl’s absence, we are treated to a significant flashback upgrade. In the original, when Sophie’s potential fathers are referred to in the past, we get Pierce, Stellan and Colin dressed up as ridiculous 70s drag versions of their younger selves. Here, we get the beefcake treatment.
Young Pierce.Young Stellan. With peek-a-boo crotch shot.Young Colin.
I mean…yes, please and thank you!
For worrying that most of the “good” ABBA songs were already taken up in the first incarnation, I have to admit that these B-side songs, as it were, did a great job of supporting the story. Not a bad trade off against the original. Plus, they recycled a couple of songs that were used in the first flick…honestly, the revamped Dancing Queen outdid the first movie, and it was good in the original!
The returning cast is great. You can see the truth behind the stories of stars wanting to do a sequel simply because the first was so much fun. And the writing and acting folds the new cast in well.
When Tanya meets the hotel manager, Fernando (played by Andy Garcia), and greets him with a “Be still my beating vagina” as only Christine Baranski can deliver…yeah, welcome to the team, Andy.
The writing delivers plenty of those quotable moments. They are generously spread out amongst the stars and supporting cast, too. Julie Walters gets “I think carbs might be my soul mate”.
But then a supporting player, the owner of the shack that Donna squats in, gets to deliver a real ball buster of a line to young Sam. He’s just returned from breaking off his engagement, looking for Donna – who has taken off on young Bill’s boat to get over him. Our sassy barkeep delivers the news and then follows up his disappointment with, “Its called Karma and it’s pronounced ‘HA!'” in her heavy Greek accent.
These moments of levity – along with great, nostalgic music – balance out the somberness of the underlying story as Sophie stresses about the opening of her mom’s remodeled hotel.
On top of all of that
For good measure, Cher drops in to the final few scenes, just to steal ’em. When I first heard the casting rumors, I though it impossible to cast her as Meryl’s mother with only a few years between them in real life.
Well, problem solved, as I learned.
Realistically, by my calculation, Cher is playing a character around 79. Definitely closer to her real age than playing 50-something’s is to the rest of the original cast.
Not to mention that her singing is just. so. absolutely. Cher! She steps up to the plate and just lets her low, smooth voice loose on Fernando and it’s sublimely amazing.
Seriously, she did such a great job that fireworks went off as she finished.
But watching the choreography both in this number and as she kicked off the end credits, I couldn’t help but be reminded – and filled with awe – of the fact that Cher is old! Not getting old, she’s there…but redefining it. As she sings Fernando, she descends a flight of stairs. I watched as the camerawork cut back and forth between her and her Fernando, her taking a couple of steps down each take. Similarly, during the end credits, she walks up the three or four stairs to a small stage and then dances in place as she sings. She’s very stiff-hipped and fragile looking, but she’s in her mid-70s and still doing it.
Gotta admire that. I’m not the only one, either. You hear it in interviews when her cast mates are asked what was it like working with Cher. You see it in the extras around her as they watch Cher move past them.
She spends a short time on screen in the final few scenes, but her story arc covers the entirety of the film. From our first meeting of the hotel manager to the seconds leading up to her first song, you eventually learn how interwoven her story line is. From mother to daughter to granddaughter.
For whatever reason, Fernando doesn’t end up being Donna’s father and Sophie’s grandfather. It’s a weird decision for a Hollywood ending. Sure, it would have been incredibly trite…but we learn from Fernando early that he had his life’s love decades ago and has made peace with its short life. We hear young Donna downplay a fling with a foreigner while traveling abroad because it hasn’t gone well for her family, namely when her mother had traveled to Mexico as a young woman. She tells this story right before her own three back to foreign flings. Why not bring it full circle? It’s kind of the only way to explain Fernando randomly making his way from Mexico to a small island in Greece…and working at a hotel owned by his true love’s granddaughter.
If you’re gonna jump a shark, might as well make it a big shark!
While were transitioning toward my small finish…can I just mention how weird it is to watch Lily James play a young Meryl?
It’s a little jarring, since she looks exactly like a young Jessica Lange!
But don’t take my word for it…
Nah…unless I’m the only one right about this!
Not that I’d ever want to work a little Cher magic and turn back time to cast Jessica as Donna just so the looks lined up. Still…
You’d think that while I was grabbing those pics off of the Google, I would have bothered to check and see if there was a familial relation.
Not that you’re worried that I’ve given away the whole movie, don’t be. If you haven’t seen it, go. On top of all of this happening, there are little moments strung along the way that sometimes help resolve a plot hole and other times are just fun.
Trust me, keep an eye out for the Greek customs agent at the boat dock. He’s friggin’ hilarious. I think there’s a reason he and Cher don’t appear together in any scenes. He’s totally steal them. Or Cher would kill him on screen for critiquing her look as he does with everyone else that happens by his little customs shack.
Remember him as the movie’s final scene plays out. It might help you not completely lose it as Sophie and Sky’s baby christening takes place and Spirit Donna pops in to sing My Love, My Life with her daughter.
It’s a killer. Never in danger of becoming my favorite ABBA song, but it was the perfect way to end this sequel.
Maybe see this movie at night so it’s dark when you leave the theater and no one notices your “been crying” face.
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