Mixed Bag of Honors and Accomplishments
The Cher Show on Broadway

Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again


Mm2I know. I know. The movie is like a half a year old already and BluRay and DVD are already out with awesome features, very Cher-flattering stuff on the extra features, not to be missed (more on that later)! 

But literally, this is where I left off blogging last year during all the drama that was last year. So we have to start here so I can catch up. But I have to admit, complaining or genuflecting for Mama Mia last season just felt wrong, even when I tried to do it. While we were going through the U.S. midterms, the constant shootings and hate crimes, kids dying at the border, it just felt extremely not-kosher to be discussing whether or not the movie Mama Mia 2 was high art or cotton candy.

Similarly, I’ve been reading a lot about lost American languages, mostly American Indian languages, especially the work of writers like Mohave poet Natalie Diaz, and it came up that Yiddish was another dying language. I’m not Jewish but I love Yiddish so I decided to start reading more about the language. But then the Synagogue shooting happened and it didn’t feel right to be interloping into a language that wasn’t mine and I felt this way for a few months. 

Pop culture can be helpful in dark times but it can also be a distraction. And I don’t claim to know where the borderline is there but...

Could I stop thinking and writing about poetry and Cher. I think I would go crazy maybe. (Too late!) Besides, 2018 was the wrong year to give up Cher scholarship. It was the busiest Cher year since 1987 or 1975 before that or 1965 before that. This was finally the year everyone realized the cultural work that Cher product does, what Cherness is. And we’re all beginning to realize how it might work on some level, thanks to the failures (and successes) of the Broadway show ironically. We’re all beginning to figure out how the Cher effect works outside of the mediums and products they spin out on. Bigger than the music and the movies and the merch. Bigger than the costumes. 

But I’ll get more into that in the next few weeks when we start to talk about Cher essays and the Broadway show.

Today I just want to catch up on that little movie that was Mama Mia 2, what interviews came out around it, what critics said and what I thought about it.

General Interviews

So Cher did a lot of press for the movie and some general interviews about all things Cher (which included discussions around the new album, the Broadway show, and her latest “I swear this is my last” tour.

She appeared on Ellen. Watch this funny clip they did at the salon. You can also find more show excerpts on Youtube.

The Today Show appearances

https://www.today.com/video/cher-opens-up-about-career-and-new-abba-album-1314064451541?v=raila& Cher makes a comment about having a favorite shirt for 40 years and of course everyone wanted to know, what shirt is that? People Magazine found out: https://people.com/style/cher-wears-same-tshirt-for-30-years/

https://www.today.com/video/-it-shows-women-being-in-control-of-their-life-cher-talks-mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-1278419523965

The New Zealand Herald: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=12088673

With Kathie Lee Gifford: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-KMgR39Eck&feature=youtu.be

With Lorrraine: https://youtu.be/ZSEvcvcImls

Interviews even happened about Cher interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8aEhHAEvyU

An interesting panel discussion with the Mama Mia 2 cast and creators: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfEHEiIKPQM&feature=youtu.be 

A story about her wig in the movie: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/showbiz/719705/cher-mamma-mia-hair-wig-film-musical-abba-fernando-super-trooper

Why We Love Cher

The Press Junket

Cher’s part of the press junket involved her in an interview-duet of sorts with Andy Garcia. I didn't like him at all at first but he grew on me. The first few interviews I watched, he seemed bored and irritated with all the gay men interviewing and genuflecting for Cher. When one obviously Cher-happy interviewer asked him if he had a Cher impression in him, he expressed mild alarm and Cher defended him by calling him a serious actor.

Which reminds us of Cher's famous moment blowing about the definitions of the conflation of words serious and actor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ptvz4DGrK4  

So ironic, that. And then the fact that maybe he is a serious sort o factor, except that he just made Mama Mia 2.

But things got better and who knows what the interviewing sequence was. Maybe he was just getting irritable before his lunch break. Anyway, you can imagine them sitting there all day while tens of tens of interviewers floated by with hundreds of questions. Here are some of the clips:

Alternatively, look how Meryl Streep behaves during at the premiere, much more befitting the tone of the movie: https://dorothysurrenders.blogspot.com/2018/07/my-my-how-can-i-resist-you.html

Which brings us to...

The Red Carpet Premiere


Cher by the Cast Actresses

“She’s the funniest, most honest person I’ve ever met,” Seyfried said of her legendary co-star. “I was so nervous; I was so intimidated that the first day I met her, I didn’t want to be in her way.”

'She was amazing, there was a crackle of anticipation on the set when she was coming in.” Piers Brosnan

Behind the Scenes

How Andy Garcia was hand picked: http://www.vulture.com/2018/07/why-mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-cast-cher-as-meryls-mother.html

You can get these on the DVD/BluRay too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6sJ3M2H2Xo&feature=youtu.be

The Reviews and Box Office

Rotten Tomatoes compilation of reviews: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mamma_mia_here_we_go_again/

Box Office overview (#2 in opening week!):

The reviews were almost a whiplash-inducing gamut in their range from good to bad...

Dazed Digital, the best review, mostly about Cher:

“Like God, or time, Cher is a concept so ineffable and expansive she cannot be fully encapsulated by the imperfect semiotics of human language. If Madonna and Lady Gaga and Kylie and Cyndi Lauper were playing football, Cher would be the stadium they played on, and the sun that shone down on them. Explaining his decision to cast Cher, 72, as the mother of Meryl Streep, 69, in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, despite a mere three-year age gap between the two actresses, writer-director Ol Packer explained simply that “Cher exists outside of time”. A fascinating hypothesis. Perhaps she finally found a way to turn it back...You’ll notice I referred to Cher as an ‘actress’. This is because there are two great injustices of our times: firstly, the machinations of late capitalism, which allows the labour of the weak to be exploited by a narrowing group of a global super rich elite, and secondly, the cultural tendency to acknowledge Cher merely as a ‘singer’ despite the fact she has appeared in several critically acclaimed film roles.” Shon Faye

The New Yorker

“...for all its faults, has a musty charm and even, for reasons that involve Meryl Streep, a hint of heartbreak. There’s also a secret weapon. Not the special effects, which include the worst fake moon in modern cinema, or Colin Firth’s dancing, but the appearance—one might call it the annunciation—of Cher, who steps from a helicopter and takes control of the film. In the role of Sophie’s grandmother, and in a voice still throbbingly low and lusty, she belts out “Fernando.” For the first time in two installments of “Mamma Mia!” I plucked the cotton wool from my ears and found myself doing something quite extraordinary. I listened.” Anthony Lane

Chicago Reader

“Cher is the cherry on the sundae”

The Globe and Mail

“Yes, Meryl Streep has left the building and only appears in a cameo at the finale; her energy is much missed. Instead, we get Cher as Sophie’s supposed grandmother, and you have to at least admire the chutzpah – and laugh happily as the script finds an excuse for her to break into Fernando (the lady looks as though she’s mistaken a taxidermist for a plastic surgeon).” Kate Taylor

Ouch!

Alternate Ending

Airquotes“a deeply inorganic Cher cameo much too late in the movie for the marketing team to feel like they've done good work by pretending she's a major character - also, fuck the hell out of the sound team for mixing Cher so loud as to suck all the texture out of my favorite ABBA song, for no other reason than because she is Cher - and a Streep cameo so ill-motivated that it goes back around to being funny. All this being said, Here We Go Again is hardly the grueling misery that the first film was, and while I still don't think that watching people being this strenuously gleeful is "fun", the new film is trying much less hard than its predecessor to be a karaoke party. It's trying to be a musical, and while I don't think that's a particularly good one, that important shift in emphasis is very much appreciated.” Tim Brayton

Newport This Week

“The new addition to the cast is Cher, as Sophie’s long-lost grandmother, a Vegas showgirl. When she finally appears, it’s a movie star entrance on the order of Rita Hayworth in “Gilda.” But with her Lady Gaga platinum hair and her waxworks face, it’s a bit too campy and a distraction. Sure, it’s fun to hear Cher belt out “Fernando” opposite Andy Garcia, whose presence is purely a plot point for Cher’s character, but it’s wholly unnecessary.” Loren King

Film Inquiry

“On the other end of the spectrum, latest cast member Cher essentially plays herself, which effectively balances the sadness with a healthy amount of whimsy, particularly during her performance of Fernando.” Zoe Crombie

The LA Times

“And what of Cher? Let’s just say that like any diva worth her salt, she takes her time — first by arriving late into the proceedings and then by drawing out “Fernando,” her indisputable musical highlight, with a deliberation so breathtaking that even the accompanying fireworks seem to be erupting in slo-mo. In these moments, the honey-toned pop artifice of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” becomes so overwhelming, you forget all qualms, all appeals to reason and logic — which is not to say your inconvenient questions won’t resurface later. What year is this taking place again? Couldn’t they have given Colin Firth a boyfriend? Why cast Cher as Meryl Streep’s mother? I understand that Cher, not unlike ABBA, transcends such petty concerns as time, space, age and physics, but that’s one mysterious parental back story I’d pay to see. Can we get a third movie out of this? Honey, I’m still free. Take a chance on three.” Justin Chang

NPR

Cher is in this thing, playing the late Donna's mother, and Sophie's grandmother. That's no secret; it's in the trailer. (As a thought experiment, try to imagine how much money they must have thrown at Cher to portray Donna's mom, given that she is just three years older than Streep. Go ahead, try — you will find the puny human brain insufficient to the task.) What may not be clear is that her screentime clocks in at just over sixteen minutes. Also, according to a passage of Streep dialogue in the 2008 film ("Somebody up there [point to the heavens] has got it in for me. I bet it's my mother.") Cher's appearance at the film's climax should logically inspire, among the other characters, a good deal more existential dread, if not screaming terror, than it does here. Look, it's no secret that Cher is a supernatural force. But if we accept that line of dialogue as Mamma Mia! canon, she may in truth be a Vampyr. The script is not forthcoming, but what other conclusion is possible? She does get a number to do, though, and it's really pretty great. So, you know: undead, schmundead — at the end of the day it's Cher singing in a exquisitely tailored pantsuit, so it's a win.” Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon also muses on when in the movie he should pee to not miss Cher.

Time Magazine

“Late in the movie, Cher–the only soupçon of tinsel you could add to this already extreme glitter-platform fest–appears as Sophie’s diva-times-10 grandmother Ruby. The finale of Here We Go Again is a go-for-broke version of “Super Trouper” in which every cast member gets to don a shiny silver space outfit and go wild. The young actors shimmy up to their older counterparts, the past meeting the present in one glam hootenanny. Everyone has a sense of humor about everything. Cher emerges, singing in that dusky, magic-hour voice and wearing a pair of bell-bottoms so extreme, she looks like a psychedelic upside-down lily. So yes, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is atrocious. And wonderful. It’s all the reasons you should never go to the movies. And all the reasons you should race to get a ticket.” Stephanie Zackarek

Roger Ebert.com

“And then Cher shows up. Now, it would seem impossible for this superstar goddess ever to be restrained. But as Sophie’s frequently absent grandmother, Cher seems weirdly reined in. Again, it’s the awkwardness of the choreography: She just sort of stands there, singing “Fernando,” before stiffly walking down a flight of stairs to greet the person to whom she’s singing. (As the hotel’s caretaker, Andy Garcia conveniently plays a character named Fernando, which is an amusing bit.) But if you’re down for watching A-list stars belt out insanely catchy, 40-year-old pop tunes in a shimmering setting, and you’re willing to throw yourself headlong into the idea of love’s transformative power, and you just need a mindless summer escape of your own, you might just thoroughly enjoy watching “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” Don’t think, and pass the ouzo.” Christy Lemire

Slate

“And to the audience’s whoops of glee, there is the Velveeta-layered revolutionary anthem “Fernando,” delivered by Cher with a pleasantly tuneless assist from Andy Garcia as the smoking-hot hotel employee Señor Cienfuegos—with whom Cher’s character, the resolutely ungrandmotherly Ruby, apparently shared a sultry night many years ago. One disappointment of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: In a musical as gay as the last gay train to Gayville—and one that takes a Shakespearean pleasure in pairing up all its characters by the final scene—there should be a romantic storyline for Colin Firth’s Harry, who came out to both himself and the world at the end of the first film. The most he gets is the suggestion of a missed connection between his younger self and a gruff security agent at the island port. Given the amount of cash queer audiences are likely to pony up to escape the summer heat in this pleasure-loving, sex-positive, Cher-starring Ramos gin fizz of a movie, it seems like the least the writer-director could have done to provide Harry with his own fair share of island lovin’.

Enjoying musicals is a necessary but not sufficient condition for appreciating the Mamma Mia! movies. You must also believe in the foolish yet empowering myth a good musical propagates: the notion that you, given a backup track and enough time to rehearse, might plausibly star in a musical yourself. Among my daughter’s and my favorite moments in the original Mamma Mia! is a line in the song “Super Trouper” that Donna, performing onstage in her full glitter-pantsuited glory, delivers directly to her daughter: “ ’Cause somewhere in the crowd, there’s you.” In this sequel’s reprise of that song, the line is delivered directly to us, the audience. It’s enough to send you out of the theater singing, imaginary feather boa held aloft, ready to grab a few friends and dive off the nearest pier.” Dana Stevens

Vogue Magazine

“I can’t tell you about the ending of Mamma Mia 2 without actually spoiling it, but I can tell you that we finally do see Cher, as Sophie’s grandma/Donna’s mom, and that she is decked out in silver with platinum hair like a tall chrome Dolly Parton, and that she sings, her beautiful moonlit face wholly unmoving except for her mouth. And that there is a subsequent scene that brought me to tears even as I thought to myself, This is so incredibly absurd. And that the film’s curtain call is one of the finest showstopping musical numbers and general feel-good fan pandering since goddamn Grease. If I sound passionate, it’s because I’m not used to feeling anything anymore. I await Mamma Mias 3 through 10.” Briget Reed

Leonard Maltin.com

“One by one, all the familiar characters from the first movie show up, uttering dialogue out of the Cliche Handbook and joining in song. But it doesn’t add up to much. The much-heralded arrival of Cher at the end is treated like the Second Coming, and the superstar gets to warble two songs, one with a surprise lover from her past, the other as a kind of curtain call for a film that doesn’t really have a finale.” Leonard Maltin

The Boston Herald

“In a snow white wig, Cher, the only genuine pop star in the cast, belts out “Fernando,” a number culminating in onscreen “woos,” applause and fireworks. In addition to being a musical with many of the same songs as the original film, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” features a cast that ,for the most part, is made up of actors not known for their singing and dancing skills. The result is kind of like 114 minutes of plodding footwork and the aforementioned karaoke without the cocktails, although you will need a drink afterward.” James Viniere

Rolling Stone Magazine

Not even the mighty Cher can keep this jukebox-musical from from feeling like an S.O.S.And finally it comes, in the ab-fab person of Cher, basically playing herself in the role of Ruby, Donna’s livewire mom. The Dancing Queen enters the movie as if on a magic carpet, wearing a platinum wig and attitude for days, aghast about becoming a great-grandmother. “I’m not putting that part in the bio,” says Ruby, and Cher...brings out every ounce of sass in the line. With the singer/icon on screen, the audience enters kitsch nirvana. She imbues the essence of Cher into “Fernando,” making the Abba song soar and flirting outrageously in a duet with a moonstruck Andy Garcia, who plays Rudy’s great love from the past. Naturally, his name is Fernando. The last part of the movie, which brings the whole cast together on “Super Trouper,” is almost worth the price of admission. Millions will happily get drunk on the film’s infectious high spirits. For the rest of us, who can’t get with the program, Here We Go Again will go down as more of a threat than a promise.” Peter Travers

And this funny piece by Daily Mail that asks, "isn't Cher's character supposed to be dead?

One major inconsistency pointed out by fans on Twitter was that one of the film's integral characters appeared to have returned from the dead. Cher makes a cameo appearance in the sequel playing Sophie's grandmother Ruby. However, viewers took to social media to point out that she, Donna's mother, was listed as dead in the first film.”

 

My review from seeing the movie one measly time, (I feel like Charlie from the Chocolate Factory buying only one candy bar), and after never finding the time to see Mama Mia 1 is that I enjoyed parts of the movie without fully enjoying the whole. I did appreciate the visual transitions between the scenes and the dance numbers were more more fun and inclusive than those found in Burlesque. Also, the music felt more organic to the story and itself than the soundtrack of Burlesque. Let’s face it, it was a better musical.

However, some things took me out of the fantasy. It seemed like too much of a nod to Cher when Christine Buranski’s character said “have him washed and brought to my tent.” This alludes to the famous rumor that Cher once said this very thing upon first seeing boyfriend Robert Camiletti. The quote has been attributed to Cher whether it happened or not. And including it in the movie felt like Cher-pandering and something possibly stolen from a rehearsal of the new Broadway show. It was completely out of place and took us away from the idea of Cher playing another character beyond herself.

I found the flashbacks completely confusing (and that’s saying something because the flashbacks in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean actually made sense to me). This might be cranky old lady of me but the young actresses looked so similar I needed some persistent date labeling to stay on track.

In some numbers, the dances and blocking seemed stiff and over-architected. Actors over-acted like someone was behind the camera yelling “Smile big, Donna!!” and therefore the hyper, fun-loving story was performed to an annoying pitch.

Image three young, sexy men...without any charisma. It wasn’t their fault. Charisma just wasn’t written into it. We got generic boys who became generic men. Only slight efforts were made to differentiate them. And yes, on some level maybe this is karmic payback for all the generic female leads strung as boy toys in a plethora of Hollywood films, but two wrongs have never made a right.

Right at the moment when “Knowing Me Knowing You” was played, Mr. Cher Scholar leaned over and gave me an Alan Partridge impression. So that was fun.

But we never did learn or understand why Donna was living at the abandoned house in the first place, who owed it, and who owned that horse. Explanations came around later but they felt very unsatisfying and underwritten.

Jessica Keenan Wynn performed a miraculous impersonation of Christine Buranksi and I would have bet my shirt that the lead actress, Amanda Seyfried, was long lost kin to Veronica Cartwright.

ChertapCher’s main scene was brief and stoic. If you remember the study I did of Cher tapping in movies from Cher Zine 1, you’d have recognized some new Cher tapping with Cher and her glass of booze. Cher also tears up in one small shot (when Meryl is singing) giving us Cher tears in almost 100% of Cher movies.

Someone in the movie describes the voice of Cher’s character as being "sweet like sugar cane." That didn’t seem right. Sugar cane seems more like the voice of Snow White: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45r2t1pGGyQ

Cher’s a party crasher but she didn’t seem to be in any of the wide shots of the party.

Cher also calls her granddaughter Soph, short for Sophie, employing the Cher tendency to nickname everyone, another Cherism that took me out of the story. Cher also calls Soph pitchy, reminding us of her guest appearance on The Voice. She also does her Cher walk. I'll be the first to admit, this a very cool walk, but it's still more Cher than something else.

Cumulatively, this makes you wonder whether this is just Cher onscreen or a character in a fictional story? Because it can’t be both. Either Cher is not "in character" or there wasn’t any character for Cher to be in.

And I’m not arguing that the character of Cher herself makes a movie necessarily bad, but there have been so many (Good Times, Stuck on You, Sonny might say Chastity, arguably Burlesque, those two Robert Altman bit parts) that those appearances might actually be staring to overshadow Cher's actual character work. And that would suck.

So the movie was too derivative of Cher, stiff and the set was distractingly pretty. I wanted to vacation there but without all these singing, smiling people. The next time I watch the movie, it will most likely be for travel planning and interior decorating ideas. The set was literally a scene-stealer.

SupertrouperI did laugh out loud during the appearance of "the most interesting man in the world" as brother of Fernando. But then I felt cheap afterwards. But then I watched it again on the DVD extras and laughed again.

But I loved listening to Cher sign Fernando and Super Trooper. Those were highlights for sure.

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