Ten years ago, I reviewed the original Mamma Mia for this very site. Spoiler alert: I hated it. Like, A LOT. I was in my 20s, I was not broken in any way, and I didn’t need this movie. I thought it was silly and over-the-top and, frankly, more than a little embarrassing. Fast forward a decade, and well, I have changed, the way America consumes entertainment has changed, the way America IS has changed. And Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again is maybe just what we needed this summer.
Let me explain:
No, this movie is not good. It is a little better than the first one (partially because Pierce Brosnan sings LESS in it, and Meryl Streep’s absence lets you not think about how she should be in a better movie), but I definitely have approximately 99 (x100) problems with it, ranging from the fact that the screenwriters apparently can’t do basic math to the fact that Pierce Brosnan DOES sing even a little.
But, that’s not the point. It was never the point.
Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again was made with the sole purpose of making you forget that you are alive in 2018 as we know it. It exists in a parallel universe of blue skies, sequins, non-sensical helicopter fly-ins and, well, some good old-fashioned, indiscriminate summer lovin’. This is how, probably (definitely?) without planning for it, the team behind Mamma Mia maybe made the one truly sex positive, female empowering, non-judgemental AND not angry piece of cinema this year (if we don’t count Lizzo’s “Boys” video, which we probably should). Yes, everyone is absolutely and undeniably lily white in it, which makes it a little bit frustrating to love in 2018, but if you are being honest with yourself, you were not expecting diversity (really, truly) from this, were you? Maybe in Mamma Mia – Will I Ever Learn? (which you know is coming) they DO learn that lesson.
But otherwise, this may be the most subversively feminist my-body-my-choice movie in a while. In 1979, where the movie takes us, Donna Sheridan, an Oxford graduate with amazing hair and a Las Vegas singer for a mother, goes on summer jaunt across Europe looking for adventure, and a place to maybe call home. What she finds, in the process, is three handsome young men (who will grow up to become James Bond, Mr. Darcy and the #FatherOfAleksanderSkarsgaard) and she has some irresponsible (though I guess the pre-HIV crisis era gives it some leeway), beachy, boaty, vacationy sex with them, gets pregnant with an angelic child, and then proceeds to pursue a career in bar singing and house renovating and grows up to be, ultimately, Meryl Streep.
The three young men find out 20 years later that they can claim a 1/3 of a daughter who invited them back to this island like some weird orgy Parent Trap fan fiction. Instead of it all going terribly wrong, it goes terribly right. They promptly all become friends, one of them marries Meryl, one of them marries her best friend (all over the course of a weekend) and one becomes finally, blissfully, unabashedly gay. Everyone is happy, no one is being judged or slut shamed or questioned and the set-up is basically utopia. With amazing natural light.
And then 10 years later, Meryl’s character has passed on, and that is more reason to sing (some slower songs too) and dance and wear sequins because she would have wanted it that way. Andy Garcia plays a character called Fernando (of course) Cienfuegos (of course). Cher is there to be Cher. Christine Baranski has one of the best sets of legs in the world. The kinds of legs they used to call GAMS. Mr. Darcy and James Bond are still very handsome, fyi. And everyone is down with spandex outfits, even though you know they have no access to dry cleaning on that island, and … I could go on.
ABBA songs are played throughout, while the bronzer costs could have probably solved the Flint water crisis (and lets not even discuss the Cher lens vaseline budget line item).
And….let’s face it: you have already decided if you are going to see this movie or not going to see it, and this review will likely not affect that. But if you were feeling a little guilty for wanting to – hopefully this means you feel a little less so.
Go on, just give in. You deserve a break. Have a Mamma Mia night.