Movie Review: Mamma Mia an embarrassment of a frothy film

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again movie cast: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Andy Garcia, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Dominic Cooper, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Meryl Streep, Cher
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again movie director: Ol Parker
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again movie rating: 2.5 stars

It really must be funny and sure is always sunny (except two wink-and-you-miss-them storms) in a rich man’s world. For, there is no other kind in Mamma Mia! redux, 10 years later, where blonde curls tumble over, tanned white skins glow over, blue seas dazzle over, pristine beaches stun over, stone houses wow over — and no one does more effort than shake a leg to music. Now that is something else, of course. There could be some way for the Mamma Mia! franchise to drop the pretence of having a storyline altogether to string all those ABBA hits together, but till they do, we have this — an embarrassment of a frothy film sustained only by the nostalgia for that ’70s band and the gamely charm and talent of its older cast.

The trouble is that unlike the last film, that older cast of Walters, Baranski, Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgård and, of course, Streep aren’t at the heart of this story. It is their younger selves, each portrayed by actors who are not a patch on their elder counterparts, who have to step up here. The only exception — and just marginally — is James, reprising Streep’s character Donna in young age. But you almost feel the strain on James’s cheeks as she traipses through an Oxford (no less) Valedictorian speech, a Europe trip and finally that Greek beach, her face frozen in a wide-eye, wide-smile look.

It’s also a big disappointment that all that celebrated free spirit of Donna amounts to only three quick shags with three men (could be more than once with one of them, to be fair) and a lonesome pregnancy. But then through the pregnancy she gets to keep a farmhouse by the beach (later, her beautiful home) for free, a horse that comes with it, and all those beautiful, hippie clothes and junk jewellery. Who needs anything else?

Not that we ever thought much of Harry (Firth), Bill (Skarsgård) and Sam (Brosnan), the more than easily manipulated men who fell in love at first sight with Donna — though all well-to-do, independent men in own rights — but as their younger selves, they are even more disappointing. And in a film so replete with eye candy, pretty plain.

Seyfried as Donna’s daughter Sophie continues to live even more completely in her shadow, even after Donna has been dead a year. And much as Donna’s free spirit turns out quite limited, Sophie’s choice is literally constrained to a walk from the house mother built to the beach mother long ago landed on. As the film undercuts continuously and often jerkily between past and present, Sophie shines in even less and less flattering light compared to Donna.

Still, Mamma Mia! keeps lifting itself, every time the fabulous Baranski and the sporting Walters appear. As it does every time anyone breaks into the many, many ABBA songs. With the pool shrinking, some of these are lesser known than the last time, but still there is the title number itself, and Super Trouper, and Angeleyes. James sings well too, and her rendition of Andante, Andante is especially good.

And then there is Cher herself. Playing to its strengths, and playing to hers, the film trots out the one-and-only singer-actor in an absolutely over-the-top glittery blouse matched with ballooning bell-bottoms and a crazy platinum-blonde wig, crooning Fernando, first against a star-lit sky, and then against fireworks.

So yes, one can be sure Mamma Mia! will be back. With or without the tiny tot Sophie is holding at the end. However, wanna bet?

Review by Shalini Langer | New Delhi for Indian Express

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