It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the summer season we’re currently wading through is chockablock with sequels. Franchise flicks have been the tentpoles of the summer season for as long as most of us can remember, but be they superpowered or monster-filled, Spielbergian or grimdark, not a single one of them is as fascinating or riveting as the upcoming release Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Seriously. Hear me out.
The original Mamma Mia! (you can’t forget that exclamation point) is a love-it-or-hate-it experience, and while the world seems to have turned its dial toward “hate it,” those box office numbers don’t lie. I personally love the movie for being an unashamed WALL·E esque cube of compacted trash bedazzled with sparkling rhinestones, but wherever your feelings lie about the ABBA-based jukebox musical, the sequel should be at the top of your watchlist.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a Halley’s Comet of a film, something so special and rare that we’re unlikely to ever see anything like it again in our lifetimes: It takes a lot for a Broadway musical to get a sequel (and have you heard of a single one beyond Love Never Dies, if even that?). It takes even more for a movie musical to get a sequel – in fact, the only one I can think of is the ever-divisive Grease 2. But this is a movie sequel to a freaking jukebox musical, an alignment of the pop culture planets that has literally never happened in the history of time.
Sure, the trailers seem to indicate that they’ll be pulling out the hits like “Mamma Mia” and “Dancing Queen” again, along with the few big tracks that escaped inclusion in the first film like “Waterloo” and “Fernando,” but the slash-and-burn approach the first film took to the ABBA discography means that the filmmakers will be forced to dig deep into the back catalogue of ABBA tracks.
And do you want to know a secret? The ABBA back catalogue rocks. Mamma Mia 2 has stumbled ass-backward into a treasure trove of lesser-known harmonic disco that pushes the envelope more than a lead single track like “Take a Chance on Me” ever could. I’m trying to avoid spoilers for the specific songs that they’ve chosen, because this is frankly a bit of a religious experience for me (if you haven’t figured out that I have a deep-rooted thing for ABBA, you must have skipped a few paragraphs), but I do already know that they’ve released a snippet of “When I Kissed the Teacher.” Remember that song? The first track off of Arrival?
Of course you don’t! But that’s exactly what I’m saying. This is a wide release movie sequel that presumably will make millions of dollars (though certainly millions less than they’re hoping) and they’re leading with “When I Kissed the Teacher.” The other choices they make will have to go down a similar path, and whether they pick the shallow and strange “King Kong Song” or the Greek mythology-inflected “Cassandra” or the propulsive dance-hall track “On and On and On,” the soundtrack will expose the world to the terrific and terrifically weird world of ABBA B-sides, almost completely by accident.
Every sequel coming out this summer is an obvious cash-grab following up on an established hit, but this is the only one where the very nature of being a cash-grab is forcing it to create something the world has never seen before. I don’t care if it’s good or bad or both, but it will certainly be strange, and that’s not something you get a lot of in the middle of July. The likes of Mission: Impossible – Fallout or Crazy Rich Asians or even The Meg are more anticipated and will probably be better, but not a single other movie coming out this summer could possibly be as incomparably idiosyncratic.
Also, come on. They got Cher for this one. I could have just started with that sentence and have been done with the entire article.
Brennan Klein is a writer and podcaster who talks horror movies every chance he gets. And when you’re talking to him about something else, he’s probably thinking about horror movies. You can find his other work on his Dread Central column applying film school theory to silly horror movies, his Ghastly Grinning column pairing the week’s releases with the perfect classic horror double feature, and his blog Popcorn Culture where among other movie reviews, he is running through every slasher film of the 1980’s. Also check out his podcast, Scream 101 where he and a non-horror nerd co-host tackle horror reviews with a new sub-genre every month!