Film Mar­cus Berk­mann


The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

I haven’t ac­tu­ally seen the orig­i­nal Mamma Mia in the usual way (on a seat with a bag of pop­corn on my knee). But my part­ner and my daugh­ter (19) have watched it so of­ten on DVD that I have prob­a­bly seen three-quar­ters of it by os­mo­sis. I know to leave the room when­ever Pierce Bros­nan tries to sing. Bros­nan turns up singing in my dreams. Yes – that of­ten.

So I took the fam­ily to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, an in­ge­niously ti­tled film be­cause it’s less of a se­quel than a slightly be­lated re­make. Gone are the all-fe­male team who made the first one, and in comes hack di­rec­tor Ol Parker and the sul­tan of schmooze him­self, Richard Curtis, who co-wrote the script. All the stars are back, other than Meryl Streep, who sen­si­bly saw no rea­son for the film to be made other than the oo­dles of money it would make. Her char­ac­ter is sup­posed to be dead, and turns up at the end as a ghost, which made every­one in the cinema weep buck­ets. ‘Best mo­ment of the film,’ said my daugh­ter. The only prob­lem was all the other mo­ments.

The orig­i­nal was an enor­mous suc­cess be­cause it was a gen­uinely fem­i­nist film with good and in­ter­est­ing roles for women, and enor­mous heart. Parker and Curtis may have watched the first film, but not as many times as my daugh­ter. This film pro­vides the main char­ac­ters with new back sto­ries that make lit­tle sense and specif­i­cally change the back sto­ries that had pre­vi­ously been given. But let’s be hon­est: who wants or pre­tends that a film like this is go­ing to make sense? All that is re­quired is that the scenes pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for won­der­ful old Abba songs to be sung and enor­mous dance se­quences to take place; and that cer­tainly hap­pens.

But what has gone is the fem­i­nism and the heart. Julie Wal­ters and Chris­tine Baran­sky, gifted ac­tresses both, were Meryl Streep’s side­kicks in the first film, and were su­perb. Here they are given less than noth­ing to do, with di­a­logue so poor it mer­its a cus­to­dial sen­tence. When Andy Gar­cia turns up as an old Greek charmer, Baran­sky has the line, ‘Be still, my beat­ing vagina.’ Only a mid­dle-aged man with no idea about any­thing could have writ­ten this.

And the tone is all wrong. The orig­i­nal film had a shabby, hip­py­ish feel, which gave it a strange sort of au­then­tic­ity. Parker and Curtis have im­posed on their film a high-end gloss, born of peo­ple who only ever turn left in aero­planes. It’s as au­then­tic and over-coloured as Dis­ney World. So, for in­stance, we have a young ac­tress called Lily James play­ing the young Meryl Streep. Lily has brown eyes where Meryl has blue, and is prone to punch­ing the air and shout­ing ‘Whoa!’ at ran­dom mo­ments. It would be hard to quan­tify how mis­cast she has been.

Worst of all is Cher, who turns up as Amanda Seyfried’s twin­kling grandma in the fi­nal few scenes. Cher has had so many facelifts that, when she cries, it’s a sur­prise that her tears go down her cheek, rather than side­ways into her ears. She is no more Meryl Streep’s mother than I am. The mu­sic is won­der­ful – some of the best I have ever heard in a film. But this was one of the worst films I have ever seen.

‘I’m go­ing to write Ol Parker hate mail!’ screamed my daugh­ter af­ter­wards, dur­ing the first hour of her post-film rant. ‘He has ru­ined my child­hood!’

He may have to move to a small Greek is­land to es­cape her wrath.

Thank you for the mu­sic – not the film: Lily James and Josh Dy­lan, all at sea

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