The Movie Guru: Even without Meryl Streep, ‘Mama Mia! Here We Go Again’ is fizzy fun
The Movie Guru
‘Mama Mia! Here We Go Again’
Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material
Directed by: Ol Parker, based on the original musical by Catherine Johnson.
Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, Cher, Julie Walters, Andy Garcia and more.
Grade: Two and a half stars
If the original “Mama Mia!” is a name-brand orange soda, then the sequel is a generic one.
Truthfully, though, most people won’t even notice the difference (and some people might even like it better). “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” has the same fizzy sweetness as the original and is best seen more as an extended music video or dance party rather than an actual movie.
It’s less narratively coherent than the first film — more than a few songs are shoved in without even the pretense of plot justification — but the singing is better overall.
The movie starts four years after the original, a year after the death of Donna (Meryl Streep’s character from the original film). Her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has fixed up the hotel to re-open and struggles with challenges that come with the opening and in her personal relationships. Interspersed with this is the story of young Donna, played by Lily James, when she first came to the Greek island the hotel is built on. In that story is her interactions with the three men who Sophie would one day call her fathers.
It’s Nice To See Them Again
If you read the last sentence and became incredibly confused, then you should probably stop here. “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” is strictly for fans of the original, which is where they explain the whole “three dads” thing, and if you haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet, then there’s no need to watch the sequel. If nothing else, then key elements of this movie rely on a knowledge of the characters gleaned from the original. If you didn’t fall in love with them the first time around, then you won’t care about seeing them now.
If you did, though, then it’s nice to see them again. I know a lot of people ragged on Pierce Brosnon’s lack of singing ability in the original, and he hardly sings at all in the sequel. Still, he does the best acting out of the entire cast — his scenes with Seyfried, his stepdaughter, are surprisingly tender and emotional. Along with a scene at the end between Seyfried and another character I won’t tell you about, it’s the only parts of the movie that actually moved my heart a little.
My feet, of course, were tapping away almost the whole time. If you’re at all fond of the music of ABBA, then the sequel is just as much of a finger-snapping, hip-shaking dance party as the original was. Plus, I’m all for any excuse for Cher to go into full-tilt diva mode. There are a few repeat songs from the first movie, but some of the new songs offer a welcome jolt of fun.
Other songs are, unfortunately, less fun. The first flashback centers around ABBA’s “I Kissed the Teacher,” which was never a hit in America and mostly comes off as wince-inducing rather than entertaining. The setting the movie puts it in does nothing to ease the song’s weirdness.
Mostly, though, “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” is a fizzy burst of fun. If you liked the taste of the original, then you’ll definitely want to come back for seconds.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.