The Heady Rush Of Nostalgia: A Review Of "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again"
Writer/Director Ol Parker came up with the brilliant title for this sequel, and one only wishes he paid as much attention to the actual screenplay. Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter, as the original cast members of the 2008 hit are back; and they’re such troupers, they know how the right amount of campy and cheesy works wonders in propelling this predictable telenovela plot to box office success.
For those who watched and loved Mamma Mia!, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again will be a gift from up ABBAve, as it goes into both prequel and sequel mode to the first film. The double helix narrative gives us one thread set in the 1970’s with young Donna (the wonderful Lily James) graduating and already exhibiting that free spirited joy for life. Friends Rosie and Tanya are there, and as Donna travels across Europe, we discover how she ended up in Kalokairi, Greece. Plus how she met the three men in her life—the young Harry, Bill and Sam.
The second narrative follows Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) in the throes of reopening the Hotel Bella Donna, worried about not disappointing her late mother, Donna. To add to the telenovela elements, she’s also having marital issues with Sky (Dominic Cooper). Here’s where the screenplay falters, and it takes the arrival of present-day Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski), there to support Sophie, to perk up the proceedings. Baranski is a hoot with all the zinger lines, while Walters provides the physical comedy. This narrative also accelearates when Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard make their respective appearances (Pierce Brosnan makes an early appearance but plays grieving widower). I’m certain it’s at this point that the smiles and grins on the faces of the Mamma faithful will be plastered until the film’s end.
Cher makes her cameo as Sophie’s grandmother looking more like she spawned Lady Gaga and entered the wrong film—it’s the next door for A Star Is Born. But all is forgiven when she goes campy with Andy Garcia to sing "Fernando," and makes the song her very own. And kudos to the film for truly making us bitin until the very end with Meryl Streep’s appearance. There won’t be a dry eye in the house when she finally shows up and sings "My Love, My Life" as a poignant hymn to the bond that exists between mothers and daughters. "Super Trouper" sung by Cher is the totally enjoyable end-credits song where the cast of both narratives come together to our enjoyment.
Almost all the songs of ABBA Gold were utilized in the first film, so producers for here had to make a choice between filling the soundtrack with lesser known songs or dressing up the real "already used" hits in new clothes —well, they decided to do both. It works but honestly, you’ll leave the theater still just remembering the truly big songs.
It’s getting close to half a century since ABBA won that Eurovision title (1972) and made Pop history. Honestly, I never really cared for their music, as it was too Pop; but I can’t deny how popular they were, and how it now qualifies as ‘so retro and classic, it’s hip’. Lily James is great, and the cast in her narrative all show enthusiasm; but I have to concede that it’s when the likes of Baranski, Walters, Firth, Skarsgard and Brosnan show up, mug for the cameras with such confidence and aplomb, that this film truly shines. And look out for the cameos of Benny and Bjorn, the guys in ABBA. Here We Go Again, a true crowd pleaser, and do we get Part III in 2028?
Lead images from @mammamiamovie on Facebook