Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

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That’s what you call karma and it’s pronounced Ha! In 1979 young Donna (Lily James), Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davis) graduate from Oxford University — leaving Donna free to embark on a series of adventures throughout Europe starting in Paris where she has a one-night stand with Harry (Hugh Skinner). She feels her destiny lies in Greece, specifically on the island of Kalokairi. She misses the ferry and hitches a ride on a boat owned by handsome Swede Bill (Josh Dylan) who drops her off to participate in a race but promises to return. On the island she immediately feels at home and sings at the local taverna. During a storm she seeks help to rescue a horse on the property where she’s squatting and English architect Sam (Jeremy Irvine) comes to her aid. They fall for one another and start a relationship – until she finds a photograph in his desk and he admits he’s engaged. In the present day, Donna’s daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has finished off the renovation Donna always dreamed of but her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is doing a hotel management course in New York and a storm threatens the opening party. Her plans to reunite with her mother’s old friends and boyfriends on the Greek island may be scuppered although Dad (Pierce Brosnan) is at hand to help out … Crosscutting between past and present, drawing parallels between the mother and daughter, this aims to fill the awkward moral gaps the first film (and original musical) opened.  It has cinematic ambition its shambolic predecessor lacked and the flaws are more obvious as a result. Written by director Ol Parker with Richard Curtis and using plot from Catherine Johnson’s original this tells a lot of what we know. The choreography is horrible, the laughs cheap and most of the best songs were already used up so we get a lot of lesser tracks only diehard ABBA album owners might know: this really only gains momentum an hour in when Dancing Queen (finally!) gets a run through and the boyfriends in their present-day versions show up – thank goodness for Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard (who gets to wear a fat suit as his twin in a funny scene). Cher’s much-trumpeted appearance as Streep’s mother is brief but frightening – she looks like Lady Gaga (same surgeon, methinks). The Bjorns make surreptitious appearances early on; Meryl Streep’s younger iteration has brown eyes (whoops) but she can sing;  everyone sings, more or less; Andy Garcia is a Mexican managing the Bella Donna and guess who he used to date? And so on. Truly terrible. Resistance is futile.

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Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason (2004)

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Catchy title, eh? And that’s just the start of this film’s problems. Time to revisit given the third in the series has just been released after … a mere dozen years. Helen Fielding herself did the screenplay (with Adam Brooks, Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies) and was presumably induced to make it more ‘cinematic’ and therefore introduces highly implausible elements that occur on foreign trips and Beeban Kidron was also assigned to directing duties. Once again we start at the turkey buffet with Mrs Jones and once again Bridget is ensconced with a non-committal Darcy. Then there’s that rivalry for Bridget’s affections between him and caddish Daniel Cleaver.  In this take on Persuasion we are cast slightly adrift on a ski slope and a Thai prison. It’s not terrible – it’s like second album syndrome – just rather lacking in the raffish charm that marked out the original. Not that this harmed box office receipts. Handled correctly, this could have been more satisfying. Note to makers:  must do better.

Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

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Nobody was actually holding out much hope for this, were they?  And it’s been a long time since we first met Renee as Bridget, the second film notwithstanding (and that’s being nice…) But in a year that’s been staggeringly unimpressive movie-wise the chance to catch up with a woman who feels less like myself now and more like an old friend was, well, pretty enticing. Even if the whole bloody story is in the title. So no surprises. And that’s the point. (Except, and we don’t wish to burn our feminist britches, Bridget’s face looks distinctly different in this sequel from shot to shot depending on the lighting. Just saying. And she’s way thinner. How? We never find out!) She’s forty-three (a year’s been shaven off…), given up the cigs, single,  the hot producer on that news show with a terrific alpha presenter for a friend (Sarah Solemani, who’s v. good) determined to get Bridget shafted, as she euphemistically puts it. But it all kicks off with Bridget literally switching gears by changing the soundtrack to her life from All By Myself to Jump Around. And that’s what she does. After attending the funeral of Daniel Cleaver who’s gone missing. There are a lot of Russian models there. Obv. And Mark Darcy (Firth looks so much older…) with wife Camilla (because that’s now the universal name for the bitch who ruins life for the Queen of Hearts, innit.) Bridget has a funny one-nighter with American Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) who turns out to be a billionaire mathematician with a winning formula for romance. Everyone’s grown up except Bridget so there are children and husbands and busy lives for all those lovely friends whom we see in short scenes and then … there are those couplings. When Darcy turns up solo at a christening …  well! It’s a country house, the beds are big… With a result that troubles mum Gemma Jones running for the parish council on a family values ticket. And a long game of Who’s the Daddy ensues. Rather tasteless. Just like Mamma Mia. Part of the story’s eternal problem is of course dry old Darcy – even Jane Austen made it clear that the finest thing about her hero was his huge house and his great fortune. Elizabeth Bennett had her on the prize and it wasn’t him, it was what he possessed. And it takes a lot to bring a smile to Fielding’s interpretation of him. Oh well. Bridget never could choose a man. There are funny swipes at television production, celebrity human rights cases, gay families (not offensive, swear), pre-natal classes, workplace politics (a great scene with Lily Allen’s F**k You Very Much used so brutally well!) and the uneasy relationship between the horrifically repressed Darcy and the endlessly charming Qwant. Emma Thompson put a draft together after the previous versions by Helen Fielding and David Nicholls were nixed and gave herself a role as an ob-gyn. Sharon Maguire (Fielding’s BFF) is back on directing duties and Ed Sheeran gets a small funny ginger role. Year summary: one funeral, one music festival, one christening, two shags, one pregnancy, practically no calories or alcohol …  It’s all much as before. And for that we should be insanely thankful. Welcome back Bridget! It’s been way too long.