Film Marcus Berkmann
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (PG)
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