So Steph loves Mamma Mia and as soon as she knew a squeal was on the way, i knew i was doomed. That’s not to say i don’t like Mamma Mia, the music of ABBA or chic flicks…. Some of my most guilty pleasure movies were created with a female audience in mind… i just had a strong feeling i wouldn’t be enjoying every minuet. At least i knew what i was walking into.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
That brings me to the first point i’m going to make and critique about this movie, i knew what it was before i took my seat. The Mamma Mia mania that swept the world when the first one was released is a big enough clue to anyone with active brain cells that the directors are not going to mess with the formula. If it ain’t broke, yada yada…
So if your biggest gripe with this movie is that you’re not an ABBA fan, or you didn’t realize others in the cinema would be singing along, dancing in their seats etc… really what WERE you expecting!? They were never going to disappoint the franchises fans by changing the movies core dynamic… though it would be nice to have explained why everyone in the Mamma Mia movies does sing ABBA. Are ABBA a band in that reality, or is singing ABBA songs just something everyone does like an instinct?
However to critique this point, was this movie a carbon copy? It was obvious they were going to keep the same basics, a strong single female lead, no committed romantic male role till the end, two best friends. All of this was the same and the reason why Dench’s character had passed away between movies, to make way for her daughters character to take center stage.
However they then changed the mechanics… a lot. They had the movie flip from present day to the past as they retold Donna’s story, only this time we actually get to witness it first hand, which is quite exciting for any fans of the first film.
The story is split into two parts of Donna’s story and her daughters. Donna’s story, despite being the one that has already happened and has been discussed and explained from the first movie does dominate the screen time of this one as well; which only makes sense when you consider is was so popular last time, it’s the story that everyone wants to see.
Only it has very little impact on the ongoing story of her daughters…. It explains one or two minor details about things we’ve already seen, gap filling and lore buffing, which for a fan, or reviewer like me, is ALWAYS appreciated; but other than that it only reinforces the idea in Sophie’s character that as long as you have something worth working for/doing, you can be brave and do it.
Then there was the part that as a reviewer i hated, which was the plot holes introduced! Now i’m not going to go into the nitty gritty details like different eye colors between actors of the same character or things like that, because Mamma Mia was last time and again this time done in the style of a theater performance. Even if you’re watching theater from the royal box you tell me if you can see a difference in eye color. Artistic licence is in my mind fine…
…But i can’t let go of the fact that they did something as big as to change the order that Donna met Sam, Harry and Bill in! Seriously, if your telling the first story you should at least tell it properly. Now we can never watch these movies together because it would confuse and annoy the fans to obviously notice the changes. Don’t get me wrong, i liked that they toned down the guys looks from the first movies flashbacks as i felt if they actually looked like that for any good length of screen time they would have been hard to take seriously, and the casting for the guys younger self’s was strong; but to put it bluntly they got the story wrong. It feels like it wasn’t made by a fan because a fan would have cared to get it right.
However brief a screen time it gets between the story we want to see, told wrong, is the actual story of this movie, about Sophie who has come to finish creating her mothers dream hotel and is planning it’s grand opening party and future in her memory. What we are meant to see her go through is deciding whether to carry on with the hotel, or travel to her next adventure in life, and whether to reconcile her romance Sky, her bf whom she breaks up with as literally the first thing that happens…. Seems like we can’t have a strong female lead if she isn’t single as well!
She finds out at the end she’s pregnant and that’s her next adventure. Her boyfriend returns to her and promises to stay, the parties a success, Cher sings us off and it’s all one big happy ending; VERY musical! I didn’t connect with that in any way! It was a crap ending to a story we weren’t watching. However, the bit after the ending is so good i won’t spoil it. That, if you even just liked the first movie, is worth watching – just make sure you have tissues ready!
The movie was shot very well. I loved that it was still in the style of a theatrical stage performance rather than that of a traditional film. Of course with that you have to put up with some musical physics, like changing environment half way through a number for effect or suddenly finding yourself an entirely new person only a few minuets after heart break or trauma with just the singing of a happy song. It is a short cut for story telling but it is in the musical style.
I felt the direction was good throughout, and the film feels fluid and easy to watch. I have already expressed my dislike of the retelling of Donna’s story instead of focusing on Sophie but then it is titled “Here we go again”; what i thought was just a clever play on words….
Of course the acting talent involved is varied, numerous and goes without saying. I could write paragraphs of soppy odes to their brilliance but, that’s not why we are here.
I don’t normally mention other critics, though i do read them and take note of the things they have to say. This time i mention them because for many this was THE film release of the Summer and as such it’s acceptance by fans does need to be taken notice of, and with, as far as I’ve seen, an average review of 7/10 which i class as Excellent, i think it has hit home with many fans as a key moment to their Summer experiences.
However the more critical of us hoped it would do better, as it had all the potential to. I just feel it was let down by some poor pre-production choices but it is certainly worth seeing! If you haven’t already, with an exception for those of you who don’t like ABBA, wha DID you do with your summer?!
That Other Guy