In Defense of Bad Taste

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A group pointing off screen after finishing a dance.

Mamma Mia! group dance.

A discussion of Bad Taste

There are a thousand and one reasons we watch movies. But there is only one reason to watch a bad movie–because it’s fun. What is bad then? Well, there are films whose messages are subtle because the filmmakers made decisions, probably difficult ones, to leave some stuff out. In the words of a former teacher of mine, they're the films viewers have to meet halfway, in that space between the screen and the seats. We have to do some work. We have to fill in the spaces left for us and only then can we appreciate the film. Then there are movies with enough explosions and sex and bad jokes to make any old Joe feel like king of the world for two hours. Either of these types of films can be bad–they're certainly not mutually exclusive–but the latter is probably more prone to lousiness than the first. But, lousy as they can be, I want to argue for what they have to offer. So, in defense of bad taste…

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The last good “bad” movie I watched was Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. It's the sequel to the great Mamma Mia!, which I like very much. Of course Here We Go Again isn't entirely bad–at least it had a blockbuster budget– but it lacks that aspect of good taste.
The women in bad taste flared denim jeans sing and dance.

Lily James, center, reprises Meryl Streep’s Donna from the first film.

The story is, at its core, about loving Donna — the same golden-haired, overall-clad character played by Meryl Streep in the first film. Everybody loves her in their own way and for good reason. Young Donna’s character, totally nailed by a wonderful Lily James, is the best part of the movie. She is bright, brave, open and, most importantly, so believable. Of course, the only course of action for this unconventional person is to leave college and travel the world. And, obviously, three men fall in love with her nearly instantly. And, of course, she decides to live on a remote Greek island and raise a child by herself. It’s all a no brainer for Donna.

It's Not All Bad Taste, Just Most of It

As much as Donna inspires adoration, the film also has many questionable moments. The casting decision to exclude Meryl Streep and include Cher was… odd. She enters the story almost like an afterthought and you think, “What the hell is Cher doing here?”  There are discrepancies between her age and the plot and it all doesn’t really make sense. The studio probably included her to fill the gaping star-power hole left by Streep’s absence.
A woman in a white jacket wearing bad taste sunglasses.

Cher as Donna’s diva mother Ruby.

Or, maybe, she was the entirely non-ironic first pick for a movie as brazen as this one. I don't know, but there she is. Then there's an awkward transition (this musical has absolutely no shortage of those) into a musical number with an old fling named Fernando. Then… well, Cher starts singing the ABBA jam “Fernando”, and you start singing along and it all suddenly feels right.  Mamma Mia 2 is not a movie that builds itself on logic–that's obvious from the many WTF moments in it–but it is meant to make you feel good. And who couldn’t use a little more of that?
People singing and dancing on a boat.

The party arrives.

No Apologies Necessary The second Mamma Mia! wasn’t a good movie, but I did have a damn good time watching it. It’s the same with the beer-centric pop country music I won’t stop listening to, no matter how much it irritates everyone who rides in my car with me. There’s something to be said about including simple things in our lives, usually so filled with complexities. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, wears its heart on its sleeve. It is open and unabashed, just like Donna's sweet character. We can choose to ridicule it, or we can let our guards down. We can let it move us right where we feel the happiest, or the saddest, or the most nostalgic. There is no better reason to watch a movie, after all.

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