The movie gets off to a bit of an embarrassing start, but this is Mamma Mia, so you knew what you were buying tickets for. Lily James bursts onto her graduation stage as the young Donna (whose later years are played by Meryl Streep) and lurches about in robes and golden platform boots, singing When I Kissed The Teacher.
It's the first scene and hard to watch. It's so unlikely that a group of British undergraduates would get swept up in the music along with their feather-boa wearing fellow student; they'd be more likely frozen to their seats, mouths hanging open in abject horror, like we are right now. But fine, let's go with it.
The three boys (played by Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner) are very funny. But both young Bill (Dylan) and young Harry (Skinner) choose to ignore Donna's protestations that she's just met them, and doesn't want to sleep with them, and they find excuses to pressure her into doing so anyway. Harry goes with 'you'd be doing me a huge favour, I've never had sex before', and Bill, having offered to give the poor girl a lift on his boat, keeps piling stuff onto the spare bed so that the only possible sleeping arrangement is in the master bed with him. And so she sleeps with them both.
The only person Donna whole-heartedly wants to have sex with is Sam (Irvine). And even then she finds herself apologising, spluttering about and promising that she doesn't normally do things like that. Sam gallantly tells her that it was 'miraculous'... what a gent. You'll notice he feels no need to justify his having had a one-night-stand too, despite sex being a two-player game.
Halfway through, the movie takes off. The two story-lines give us young Donna, who is setting down roots on a beautiful Greek Island, and grown-up Sophie, who is throwing a party to celebrate the opening of her hotel.
Both feature great ABBA bangers (a highlight performance of Fernando by Cher awaits you at the end) and some very funny one-liners. Donna's friends Rosie and Tanya (played in later life by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, and as young women by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn) bring the spice and humour. Lily James and Amanda Seyfried have voices to die for, and deliver songs that you'll sing all the way home.
Just when it looked like the film was going to redeem itself, grown-up Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) goes in for a kiss with Rosie (Walters) as she's finishing a speech about how he's blown his chance and will have to live with the fact there's nothing romantic between the two of them anymore. 'You're very strong,' he says, ignoring everything she's just said and then – seconds later, after getting teary about something else – he goes in for a kiss. And she's absolutely delighted. Argh! Can we all please agree to stop showing women who mean 'yes please more' when they explicitly say 'no'?
The drips and drabs of sexual harassment aren't the only indicators that the movie's heart is still stuck in 2008, when the original Mamma Mia film came out. There's no diversity among the protagonists, only the extras. Look at the still for the trailer (above) and you'll see only white faces.
It's such a shame because, whilst it's a pleasure to forgive Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again for any embarrassing dance scenes in the name of a good sing-along, it's hard to get over the portrayal of women as daft creatures who love nothing more than to be coerced or guilted into having sex – when all they said was that they'd like a lift to the nearest island.
It's 2018. It's time to show women who are either enthusiastic about having sex, or are respected when they say 'no thank you so much, I've only just met you.' Be a super trouper for us now.
|Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again review:
20 Jul 18 – 31 Oct 18, Show times vary