Anna Roisman is a comedian, writer, actor, creator, producer, and host in NYC. Anna is the host of HQ Words, a word puzzle game from the creators of HQ Trivia. Anna’s work has been featured in the Tribeca Film Festival, New York TV Festival, Just For Laughs in Montreal, People magazine, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Funny Or Die, Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and more. She is the creator of The Unemployed Show and co-producer and host of Quickie Fest: The One Minute Movie Festival in NYC. Anna hosts the live comedy shows, “Revival” and “Fashion Puhleeze,” and sings with The Losers Lounge at Joe’s Pub & City Winery. For reels, press, and information, check out AnnaRoisman.com.
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the release of Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, which came out in July 2018, and the question on everybody’s mind (and by everybody, I mean me) seems to be … could we go again? And the answer is Yes. How could we resist-ya? So, here’s a tribute to the films that nobody asked for, but secretly desired.
For those of you who have never seen either one of the Mamma Mia movies or the musical, I’m so sorry, but also here’s the lowdown. It’s a story about a girl who doesn’t know who her dad is, so she decides to “take a chance” and, unbeknownst to her mother, invite every man her mother slept with to her wedding. Bold move, right? While this sounds like an episode of The Maury Povich Show, I can assure you it is. That, plus a full soundtrack of the legendary music of ABBA and it’s set on an island in Greece. There is nothing better than seeing a hipster/feminist Meryl Streep face her ex-lovers while belting out emotional ’70s pop music.
The movie broke box office records! To name one, it was the highest-grossing film for a movie based on a Broadway musical … opening weekend … for its time. And although Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 55 percent approval rating, that’s more than a lot of movies I’ve seen! Listen, I’m not here to convince you that it’s one of the best movie franchises of all time. I’m here to tell you why it is. Can you call it a franchise if there are only two movies? Too late, I already did.
Mamma Mia showcases many themes like resilience, family, and don’t Marie Kondo your 1970s disco costumes. The movie features strong women, who don’t need a father or a husband to succeed in life. (And by “life,” I mean the fairytale setting of an island in Greece surrounded by crystal blue waters and the freshest fish on earth.) In the first movie, Meryl Streep is thrown off guard when her three ex-lovers come to her daughter’s wedding. Through song and dance (and overalls), she manages to flirt with each of them and turn us all on. The takeaway from this first film can be simply described as, these are the happiest single people on the planet. SPOILER ALERT: We never find out who the real father is. Which is a brilliant filmmaking tactic when you’re secretly planning a sequel. It is relatable on a personal level too, allowing audience members like me to wish I didn’t know who my father was. And with a star-studded cast of Hollywood’s 60-something elite caucasian actors, it leaves more than “one of us” wanting more.
Fast forward to Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Not only is it a sequel, but it is a prequel to the musical masterpiece. This is how you know you have a hit on your hands. When you don’t even need to pen a follow-up story, you can reuse the original story from the first movie and just deliver it in an earlier time period! Plus, you save a whole audience from ever seeing these characters grow by giving them more of what they already know. And the same goes for music. Name another movie musical sequel that uses more than half of the same songs as the first movie. Still thinking? I know I am! And that’s what makes the Mamma Mia “franchise” a hit. Most of the actors signed on again for the prequel, since they made a bajillion dollars from the first movie. “Who knew?” and “Sure, why not?” was the vibe from the majority of the cast.
There was one notable addition to the film that turned a lot of heads. Cher signed on, and that is probably why Rotten Tomatoes upped their number to 81 percent. Not only was this her first onscreen movie appearance in years, but she played the groundbreaking role of Meryl Streep’s mother even though she’s only three years older than Meryl in real life. Sure, there was backlash, but what the world needs to accept is that anything’s possible when you’re Cher. Like being in a movie where you have three wigs, three scenes, two songs, two languages, and one make-out that you probably shot in your backyard over the course of an afternoon. Or on a “green screen,” as Hollywood calls it. The movie also had more special effects than the first one. (Which makes sense since it did have to compete with an Avengers movie …) SPOILER ALERT 2: Meryl Streep dies of unknown causes, and makes a brief cameo for one song toward the end as a holographic ghost. It’s probably the biggest letdown of the film, as we’re a nation who NEEDS. MORE. MERYL.
If you did your detective work, you already know the final spoiler alert from an essay about a movie that came out a year ago. SPOILER ALERT 3: We still don’t know who the father is. (Remember? It’s the same story!) But, we’re OK with it. This prequel did exactly what it needed to do. It gave us another ABBA cover album, and became a staple airplane movie. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again will always be best described as The Godfather Part II for women and gays.
While I hope this essay turned you on as much as Pierce Brosnan turns me on while he sings off-key to a blown-up photo of the late great Meryl Streep on a kayak in Greece, it’s OK if it didn’t. But if you’re craving one or more feel-good, super white musicals based on a collection of songs by a Swedish pop band, then the Mamma Mia franchise is your answer. I can now confidently call it a franchise, because I have high hopes that they’ll bring it back yet again, and give me a starring role.