Mission Lab

REVIEW: ‘Mamma Mia 2’ is a lesson on how NOT to live your life

July 20th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Mamma Mia 2’ is a lesson on how NOT to live your life

Sophie is a free-spirited woman just like her mom, Donna. She sings. She dances. She throws parties.

And just like her mom, she’s opening a hotel -- the Hotel Bella Donna on the Greek island of Kalokairi – and planning a grand-opening bash. Her friends are invited, and her family, too. But most of all, she wants her “three dads” to come – that is, the three men who might be her father. No one knows which one is the real dad, but for now, that’s OK. She views all of them as family.

Of course, she would love it if her fiancé Sky could come to the grand opening, too, but he’s in New York City for six weeks learning more about the hotel business. Once that’s complete, he’ll return to Kalokairi and manage the hotel with Sophie. Or so she thinks.

Sky phones and tells her he’s been offered a full-time job in New York City – a job he really wants. Can a romance survive if two people who are an ocean apart refuse to give an inch?

The musical Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (PG-13) opens this weekend as a sequel to the 2008 film Mamma Mia!, which grossed $144 million in the U.S. and finished 13th on the domestic chart that year. The newest film serves as both a prequel and sequel, going back and forth between scenes from Donna’s younger years to scenes of Sophie preparing for the grand opening. It stars Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!) as Sophie; Lily James (Cinderella) as the young Donna; Meryl Streep (Out of Africa) as the older Donna; Pierce Brosnan (James Bond film series) as Sam, one of the three dads; and Cher as Sophie’s grandmother.

The movies are based on the Broadway play Mamma Mia! and feature music from the 1970s group ABBA as well as new songs by ABBA member Benny Andersson. They’re also very popular among teen girls and women. (The female-to-male ratio in my theater was 10-to-1.)  

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a mixed bag. It features plenty of catchy tunes and fun choreography to accompany its thin plot, along with a decent message about parenting and a horrible message about romance.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

None.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Moderate. No nudity, but plenty of bedroom/sex talk and inuendo. Young Donna is seen in a bikini top and displays her midriff and cleavage in several scenes. The opening scene includes ABBA’s “I Kissed the Teacher,” with the song referencing a female teacher and Donna, at the school’s graduation, seen pretending to kiss a female teacher. Later, Donna meets a man over lunch and he discusses the “advantages and disadvantages of spending the night together.” She had met him that day, but we then see them in bed, post-sex. Donna meets a second guy, who takes her across the water to an island on his boat. They don’t sleep together, but apparently only because of a lack of time. Donna meets a third man, and they kiss outside his house at night. The next scene shows them in a boat the next morning, with him wanting to talk about “last night.” (It’s implied they slept together.) We then learn he was engaged to another woman. Later, we see her hop in the bed with the man who pilots the boat. Sex is implied, but we don’t see anything. Other characters kiss during the movie, too. Some of the dancing is sensual, but most of it is OK.

Coarse Language

Minimal. About six words: h-ll (2), misuse of “God” (2), misuse of “Jesus Christ” (1), OMG (1)

Other Positive Elements

The three dads – even though they don’t know which one is the biological father, truly care for Sophie as a daughter. One even walks out of an important business meeting to make her grand opening. “Family is all that matters,” he says.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

The death of a parent is a central part of the plot. Characters drink wine.

Life Lessons

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again displays the consequences of a free-spirited, carefree attitude toward romance and sex while also teaching us it’s never too late to reconcile. Mostly, though, we’re stuck with a ton of songs about falling in love after a 24-hour relationship that often includes sex. That’s not much different than many popular songs on the radio today, but in Mamma Mia! we see it played out on the big screen.

“I have absolutely nothing mapped out [and have] no idea what the future holds” a young Donna says, as she falls for another man.

The film offers us lessons on how not to confront a romantic relationship and about what not to do before you’re married. Sure, it’s fun to watch Donna sing about “romance” and Sophie sing about her three fathers, but in the real world, it’s not fun and games. No kid deserves to grow up like that, wondering which man that her mom slept with is her real dad. Sleeping around is easy. Parenting a child at a young age – the consequence of this care-free attitude -- is hard work. Too often, young adults aren’t ready for the latter. In the real world, we don’t break out in song and dance to make everything feel better.   

Worldview

ABBA’s hit song “Waterloo” – which is part of the movie – includes this lyric: “[I] promise to love you forever more.” Unfortunately, few if any people in the film do that. Sophie’s mom had sex with so many men that she doesn’t know the identity of her daughter’s father. The three fathers themselves are no picture of virtue. An elderly woman in the movie was divorced three times. Even Sophie is unmarried, having called off the wedding at the end of the first film to sail around the world with Sky.

At one point in the film, a depressed young Donna says, “I don’t know how to sing about love when I’m not feeling it.” Therein lies the problem. Love isn’t just a feeling. The biblical definition of love involves sacrifice and selflessness. It includes action. It includes loving a person even when you don’t “feel like it.” “Mamma Mia! love” is fleeting. Real love lasts a lifetime.   

Thankfully, Sophie does show a little more responsibility than her mom, especially at the end.     

What Works

The music and the dance. There aren’t many genres of music I don’t enjoy.

What Doesn’t

The story contains a few major plot holes and unanswered questions.

Discussion Questions

  1. Define “love.” How does the biblical definition of love differ from Donna’s definition?
  2. Why couldn’t Donna ever find true love? What was she doing wrong?
  3. What is the problem with sex before marriage? How did it blind Donna and her boyfriends?
  4. Do you think Sophie learned from her mother’s actions?
  5. Why do songs impact us so much?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material.