Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Review

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Five years since the events of Mamma Mia, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) plans to re-open the renovated Hotel Bella Donna with a party reuniting her family and friends. Nearly 30 years earlier, a young Donna (Lily James) ventures on a life-changing summer holiday that will lead her to the three loves of her life, and the Greek island of Kalokairi.

by Ben Travis |
Published on
Release Date:

20 Jul 2018

Original Title:

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

With its all-star cast (Streep! Firth! Brosnan!), relentless kitsch, and all-killer ABBA soundtrack, Mamma Mia! might just be the The Godfather of so-camp-it’s-classic jukebox musicals. Kudos, then, to writer-director Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) for pitching the cleverly titled sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as its The Godfather Part II — part sequel reuniting the original cast, part prequel recounting the summer that first brought Meryl Streep’s Donna to Kalokairi, Greece.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

In its best moments, Parker recaptures the original’s free-wheeling joy and energy — the young Donna, Rosie and Tanya (Lily James, Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, all excellent) tearing off their graduation robes to reveal stripy catsuits and feather boas in opening number ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ is gloriously silly, picking up tonally right where Phyllida Lloyd’s original film left off. James, given the unenviable task of continuing a role originated by Meryl Streep, is full of vitality and convincingly channels her free-spirited hippie vibes. But despite the cast’s energetic efforts, the overlong prequel plot needs tightening — with the first film already recounting the basics of Donna’s string of summer romances you’ll know exactly where it’s going, and luxuriant pacing results in a baggy middle hour.

When the singing and dancing is in full swing, it’s just as infectious as it was a decade ago.

Conversely, the sequel thread spends too long in a low gear before ramping up for its crowdpleasing finale. Unnecessary emotional weight in the story leaves Seyfried’s Sophie — so carefree first time around — stressed, tired and sad for much of the runtime. Thank goodness, then, for Julie Walters and Christine Baranski (the MVP again, as she was last time) as Donna’s best friends, who keep things moving with a steady stream of laughs (Baranski gets the year’s best line of dialogue so far) and the sparkiest musical number in ‘Angel Eyes’. When the plot threatens to veer too far into gloomy territory, Firth and Stellan Skarsgård sail in to the rescue, quite literally bringing the party with them and giving the film a much-needed lift. And speaking of relief, Brosnan isn’t called on to sing much here — either a positive or a negative, depending on your taste for high-enthusiasm, low-competence honking.

Streep’s screentime is disappointingly brief, so there’s the need for a shot of star power. And waiting in the wings is Cher, playing Sophie’s fearsome grandmother in an extended last-reel cameo, although her part is all-too-brief, and her duet with Andy Garcia on the mid-tempo plod of ‘Fernando’ isn’t quite as rousing as it needs to be.

While the plot of Here We Go Again hits some occasional bum notes, another soundtrack of ABBA classics hits almost all the right ones. With most of ABBA Gold used last time, a little silver and bronze padding has slipped through here (‘Andante Andante’, anyone?), but when the singing and dancing is in full swing — a reprise of the first film’s jubilant ‘Dancing Queen’ sequence, an all-cast rendition of ‘Super Trouper’ — it’s just as infectious as it was a decade ago.

The first Mamma Mia! often felt like being trapped on a non-stop rowdy middle-aged all-singing all-dancing holiday (in a good way). Ten years on this second trip feels older and wiser, for better or worse, and despite the odd misstep you’ll still be dancing in the aisles come the end credits. Bring on Mamma Three-a! in 2028.

You’ll cackle at Christine Baranski’s crackling dialogue, cry when Meryl sings ‘My Love, My Life’, and when all is said and done you might even be tempted to go again.
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