Goosebumps — not in a good way
Astonishingly, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is not budging from local theaters and is still going strong on its third week. The sequel-SLASH-prequel of the 2008 smashing jukebox musical hit takes us back to the dreamy, gold-splashed fictional Greek island of Kalokairi for a two-hour sing-along session of ABBA songs and for the studio to rake in big-time cash.
You’ve got to admire the screenwriters for being able to come up with a story to meld with the original and incorporate the ABBA songs. Sure, they managed to squeeze out a coherent storyline that brings back the original cast (and add a few new ones), but with such asinine, supremely corny narrative, the movie is a very painful experience.
In this movie, Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) is dead. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), Donna’s daughter, plans to reopen her mother’s Greek hotel, which is also an act of commemoration to her. However, Sophie is stressed that her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is not by her side for this momentous event, and that two of her possible fathers, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), won’t be able to make it to the reopening. Of course, there’s her other dad, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), to comfort her.
In between Sophie singing along towards the night of the reopening, the movie brings us back to the young Donna (Lily James) circa 1979 to reveal how she met Sophie’s three possible fathers and how she landed in the Greek shores.
Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) doesn’t look anything like a young Meryl Streep, but it shouldn’t matter as she is the sole life in this insipid, melodramatic movie. James is magnetic, mesmerizing in her bouncy golden curls, sunkissed skin and very impressive singing voice and dance moves. She makes the ugly dance choreography watchable.
You can’t, however, sympathize with the young Donna, who’s made to look like a promiscuous flower child that proudly sings her valedictorian speech how she kissed a teacher (an older woman, played by Celie Imrie) before bedding every strange young man she encounters on her trip to Greece. Yep, three of them in rapid succession: the young Harry (Hugh Skinner), the young Bill (Josh Dylan) and the young Sam (Jeremy Irvine).
We know that Donna sleeping with three men in a few hours’ interval is a crucial narrative necessity to support the “hilarious” fact that she doesn’t know who Sophie’s father is. But in between her sexual rendezvous with these men, who is Donna? Why should we care for her? But, alas, there is nothing else to know about her, except that she’s a talented wanton woman that knows the songs of the Swedish pop quartet by heart.
Then enter Cher, who plays Streep’s mother, looking like Lady Gaga with a photoshopped face. She comes late into the film as a “treat” and goes on a duet with Andy Garcia’s character, the flirtatious manager of the hotel. In fact, everybody is sickeningly flirtatious and sexually forward here, from the young and old, past and present.
Of course, one should never take a popcorn movie seriously. Here We Go Again, directed by Ol Parker, is designed to be shallow entertainment, yes, but because the movie is uninspired, the result is a money-making, cringe-worthy fare. The cast belts out mostly unknown and B-side tracks, sprinkled with a few repeats from the original, in mostly forced situations.
When the first song, “When I Kissed the Teacher,” breaks into the school auditorium, you immediately lose respect for Donna because she emits a bizarre personality instead of a fun, rebellious spirit. And from then on, it’s a series of un-catchy tunes and silly choreography that make you recoil and experience intermittent goosebumps in various parts of your body.
The last song, the finale “Super Trooper,” is merged with the end credits where all the cast, the young and old version of the characters, come together for an ostentatious number, which feels like the culmination of all the gross feelings this movie piles us, giving you full-body goosebumps.
Rough around the edges, intolerably cheesy with a horrendously juvenile storyline, combined with forced songs, the movie’s only rewards are the idyllic, enchanting Greek island and Lily James’s ebullient, concert-worthy, X-factor vibe. In my numb state, the only performance that mildly stirred my serotonin was “Mamma Mia” because it was sung with such bravado and excitement. Skip this icky musical, unless you’re a diehard ABBA fan.
0.5 out of 5 stars