Song of the Day #3,671: ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ – Lily James and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again cast

I was a latecomer to 2008’s Mamma Mia!, watching it for the first time last December.

My initial reaction was confusion over how such a wildly uneven quirkfest could be beloved by so many. But I recognized the film’s charms, especially the irresistible ABBA songs and Meryl Streep’s exuberant, full-hearted performance.

When I learned about this summer’s sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, it struck me as unnecessary. For one thing, haven’t all the good ABBA songs been used already? I bought the band’s greatest hits after seeing the first film and the bases were pretty much covered. And was there story enough left in the soapy premise to warrant getting everybody, including audiences, back to the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi?

The answers, it turns out, are ‘no’ and ‘yes,’ and who cares because LILY JAMES!

I didn’t just like this movie; I adored it. Every corny, sentimental, technicolor moment put a smile on my face and a lump in my throat.

Writer-director Ol Parker, with a story assist from rom-com legend Richard Curtis, made the brilliant decision to go all Godfather Part II, telling the story of young Donna (Meryl Streep’s character in the original film) through flashbacks while simultaneously advancing the present-day plot. By bridging the generations, they introduced some real poignancy to the film, exploring the powerful bond between mothers and daughters. If you can, see this movie with your mom.

The flashback conceit also gave the filmmakers the chance to cast Lily James as a young Donna. I enjoyed James’ work in 2015’s live-action Cinderella and last year’s Baby Driver, but I wasn’t prepared to be so completely won over by her performance here. James channels Streep’s boundless joy and carefree spirit, adding a healthy dose of sun-kissed sensuality. And boy does she know how to fill out a pantsuit.

James owns the movie every minute she appears. This is the kind of star-making performance that should get attention come Oscar season. The Academy will no doubt line up to award something obvious like Felicity Jones impersonating Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but could Felicity Jones (or Ruth Bader Ginsberg) sadly deliver the opening lines of ‘Mamma Mia,’ cartwheel through an orange grove, or make you want to drop everything and move to an abandoned farmhouse just by smiling? I don’t think so.

To the film’s credit, it doesn’t collapse when James is offscreen. The casting of the original lineup’s younger versions is spot-on, particularly Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies as the great Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, respectively. Amanda Seyfried winningly reprises her role as the daughter trying to carry on her mother’s legacy. Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard are once again the best sports (with the worst voices).

Cher shows up late in the film, her plastic surgery making her look a little more like the Rocky Dennis role in Mask than her own, to deliver a few wry one-liners and the most famous ABBA song not in the original movie.

And Meryl Streep makes an emotional appearance, slaying her scenes the way only Meryl Streep can. Sidelining her character was a controversial decision but one that pays off beautifully, lending the sequel emotional depth lacking in the original.

Some movies you appreciate more than enjoy. Some you enjoy for all the right cinematic reasons. Others you just love, reason be damned. For me, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is that movie.

Could a more discerning critic find a hundred problems with the film? Probably. And the Grinch found a hundred things to hate about Christmas.

[Verse]
Everybody screamed
When I kissed the teacher
And they must have thought they dreamed
When I kissed the teacher
All my friends at school
They had never seen the teacher blush
She looked like a fool
Nearly petrified
‘Cause she was taken by surprise[Chorus]
When I kissed the teacher
Couldn’t quite believe her eyes
When I kissed the teacher
My whole class went wild
As I held my breath, the world stood still
But then she just smiled (smiled)
I was in the seventh heaven
When I kissed the teacher

[Post-Chorus]
What a mad day
Ah, ah, ah
Now I see everything
In a different light
What a mad day
I was up in the air
And she taught me a lesson alright

[Chorus]
I was in a trance
When I kissed the teacher
Suddenly I took the chance
When I kissed the teacher
Leaning over me
She was trying to explain the laws of geometry
And I couldn’t help it
I just had to kiss the teacher

[Post-Chorus]
What a mad day
Now I see everything
In a different light
What a mad day
I was up in the air
And she taught me a lesson alright

[Chorus]
What a crazy day
When I kissed the teacher
All my sense had flown away
When I kissed the teacher
My whole class went wild
As I held my breath
The world stood still
But then she just smiled
I was in the seventh heaven
When I kissed the teacher

[Outro]
(I wanna hug, hug, hug him)
When I kissed the teacher
(I wanna hug, hug him)
When I kissed the teacher
(I wanna hug, hug, hug him)
When I kissed the teacher
(I wanna hug, hug him)
When I kissed the teacher

8 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,671: ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ – Lily James and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again cast

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    We too had a Mamma Mia weekend, starting with a rewatch of the original on Saturday night courtesy of Netflix followed by the sequel yesterday in the Dolby theater. Given the surprisingly good reviews (79% RT Fresh) and after having seen “Sorry to Bother You” Friday night (let’s just leave it at I felt it was uneven, pretentious and not the film I was in the mood to see after a long work week), I was fully prepared to embrace “Here We Go Again.”

    My enthusiasm was slightly tampered by confirmation going in that they did in fact kill off Meryl Streep’s Donna. And, while I generally enjoyed the movie overall, I think killing off Donna was a big mistake and, frankly, unnecessary. I agree that the best part of the movie was Lily James and the flashbacks that wonderfully filled in the backstory, but you didn’t need to kill off Donna to do that. Frankly, even the last church scene would have been just as emotionally impactful with Donna alive. Her death was unexplained, which was just odd, and inexplicable otherwise. Did she die in some tragic accident? Did she die after a long battle with cancer? Either way, her husband and daughter would have, and should have, addressed it in some way beyond acting as though she had just been swooped off of the planet by angels one day a year before.

    And then there’s Cher, who I love, but was as awkwardly shoehorned into this movie as her nips and tucks were shoehorned into her surgically enhanced face. Her inclusion late in the film, and then taking up disproportional screen time, didn’t work for me at all. Ironically, had they allowed Donna to live and then examined the tension between Donna and her mother, Cher’s inclusion would have made far more sense and really highlighted the connectivity between three generations.

    Anyway, overall, I did enjoy the sequel, but not more than the original.

  2. Amy says:

    I can absolutely appreciate your gushing fan boy reaction to Lily James. Hell, I adored her in The Darkest Hour, and Daniel declared Cinderella the best movie of all time, so her presence in this film was the only reason I agreed to see it in the first place, given the worst kept and most unnecessary spoiler of all time.

    That said, how this is being passed off as some fun romp you should see with your mom I just don’t get at all. Donna Sheridan is Meryl Streep is Donna Sheridan. The Godfather this ain’t, and a more foolish screenwriting decision is difficult to imagine.

  3. Clay says:

    Obviously I disagree about the effectiveness of that plot decision, probably because I don’t have strong feelings for the first film one way or the other. I think Streep has more impact in this film the way she’s used than if they hadn’t made that bold decision and just brought her back for more island singalongs.

  4. Peg Clifton says:

    We haven’t seen the movie but plan to soon. Since I am a major Streep fan I was disappointed that she was voted off the island so I will be interested to see how this movie works for me 😊

  5. Doug Clifton says:

    Great review. On the strength of it we’ll see it. Nicely turned phrases throughout.

    >

  6. Madison says:

    Okay, I can officially chime in now that I’ve seen the latest Mamma Mia. 🙂 As probably the most enthusiastic fan of the first one (I’ve seen it nearly ten times now), I can definitely say that this new one didn’t nearly reach the emotional depths that the original did. Maybe that’s because death in movies, particularly out of the blue and unexplained deaths of one of the best characters, doesn’t pull at my heartstrings the way a mother singing “Slipping Through My Fingers” while painting her daughter’s toenails for her wedding does. I didn’t shed a tear in this movie, but I did have a ton of fun. Lily James is absolutely incredible and I always love her in everything she does. Some of the present scenes were pretty damn joyful as well, though Cher was entirely ridiculous and Sky was given a super strange plotline that just felt weird. Eternally grateful for each and every addition Colin Firth dance scene, though. 🙂

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