‘Mamma Mia’ was based on the 1995 jukebox musical of the same name (also the title of ABBA’s 1975 smash hit) where a flimsy plot was hastily thrown together to link the timeless songs of ABBA – Sweden’s greatest ever cultural export. The threadbare story concerned itself with a woman named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who lives with her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) on a Greek island. Sophie wants her Dad to walk her down the aisle during her pending nuptials. The only problem is that Donna had gotten jiggy with three different men over a short space of time, therefore doesn’t know who’s Sophie’s Daddy. The shonky plot was a flimsy excuse for the cast to sing the ABBA songs in a far less epic manner than the harmonious genius of Agnetha and Frida. It was fluffy fun and a smash hit.
Ten years later, the makers needed to top up their pension funds, so a sequel was made.
It is an atrocity of a film.
In the intervening decade Donna has carked it (having read the script Meryl probably pretended to have broken her ankle). Her heartbroken daughter has just finished renovating an old Greek ruin as a hotel which she has named after her Ma. She’s about to throw an opening party for the venue, but there’s a storm pending so some guests might not make it. That’s it. That’s the plot.
Obviously for a film of this nature, the actual script is a secondary consideration, almost an irrelevance. People aren’t going to the cinema to see this for their intellectual edification. They are going for the ABBA songs. This script must have been written on the back of an envelope during a cigarette break though.
The main problem is that the film treats Meryl’s character from the original film as some much loved, iconic movie character rather than as a forgettable plot device to connect the pop songs. This film focuses on Sophie’s grief. Therefore scenes of Sophie looking forlorn and grief stricken are interspersed with razzle dazzle musical numbers. There are flashbacks of a young Meryl’s (played by Lily James) journey to Greece and her wild times with her many lovers. This is unnecessary of course but gives us a chance to see young people in swimwear being pulchritudinous.
The film is noteworthy however in how it records the passage of time on the visages of the thespians. Dominic Cooper (Sophie’s choice as a husband) was incandescently beautiful in the original film with his glowing features. These days he looks like a tax accountant who works out, to keep his younger mistress happy.
The ABBA songs of course are spectacular – shimmering shards of pop brilliance. Nobody sings them with the plaintive, yearning intensity of Agnetha and Frida though. Surely Bjorn and Benny are rich enough, without a need to inflict this cinematic abomination on us.
The most noteworthy thing about this film (and its saving grace of course) is the preposterous Cher. In this travesty of a film she plays Meryl’s mother.
Cher of course transcends space and time, having first broken onto the music scene in the paleolithic era. She is on record as having told Julius Caesar to ‘snap out of it’ as Rome burned; refused to become Henry VIII’s wife after Ann Boleyn’s beheading; uttered ‘WOOOAAAH’ in that Cher accent during the French Revolution, before deciding on a singing and acting career in the 1960s. In this movie she arrives towards the end of proceedings and it’s like she is in a completely different film from the moment she arrives; on another plane; in a separate time zone. When her appearances are interrupted by the moronic plot I found myself shouting at the screen to bring her back. I experienced sympathy pains as she tried in vain to show facial expressions. So frozen was her face that opening her mouth to honk ‘Fernando’ looked like a supreme effort – almost as if she was recovering from a major operation. Which of course in Cher’s case is entirely probable, if not likely. In the credits she had an assistant who was described as ‘Cher’s Wig Stylist’. Of course she did.
To summarise., this film is a cheap, nasty, money-grubbing, exploitative mess. I enjoyed it. Recommended.