Ten years ago, Mamma Mia! became a widely successful film adaption of the beloved Broadway musical. Fast-forward and we are given a sequel of sorts in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. On the eve of her hotel’s grand re-opening, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is feeling somewhat lost and uncertain of herself after the recent passing of her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep). Calling on the help of her mother’s best friends, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), Sophie reflects on her mother’s journey as a young woman and the steps that led her to an abandoned farmhouse on a beautiful Grecian island. If you enjoyed the original film then odds are you will enjoy this one. In more ways than one, this film is a reprisal of the original.
A majority of the film is spent following a young Donna (Lily James), a recent college graduate uncertain of what she wants to do next. Assuming that you’ve seen the previous film, then you already know how the rest of the story plays out. Over a number of weeks, Donna meets and becomes romantically involved with three young men. One of the issues with this is that there is no need to provide any more insight here. This storyline only answers the simple question of how a young American woman settles on a small Greek island, that’s about it. The one thing I enjoyed during these musical “flashbacks” was Lily James. Though there isn’t much required from her performance she gave it a solid effort. I find her to be an interesting young actress so seeing her in any capacity works for me.
Another part of the film that I enjoyed was the choreography in the large group numbers. This time around these numbers appeared to more fun and better reflected the music itself. The way the camera moved around the set was also more interesting and added to the overall musical experience. However there is also a big issue with these large group numbers. A major part of the appeal from the first film is the music. Those ABBA songs are incredibly engaging and super popular, which is exactly what you want in a musical. This is not the case for this film, which is the main issue with Here We Go Again. Just like its predecessor, this film incorporates songs from the catalog of the popular 70’s group. Where these new songs differ is that not one of them is memorable. You’re supposed to leave the movie theater with these songs stuck in your head. Coming from someone who has always loved listening to musical soundtracks, I can’t recall any of them. Someone made a really smart decision to include a number of songs from the original soundtrack. Songs such as “Mamma Mia” and “Dancing Queen” amongst a few others are reprised and thank goodness! By incorporating these songs it allows the audience to remember what they loved about the previous film and become engaged, which is essential. Without their reprisal, this film lacks what made the first one so successful.
Even though I think it was wise to include these songs, it adds to my previous point, this films is a reprisal of the first. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good thing. There is nothing new or original about this story; it’s simply a retelling of a story that we already know. While the previous film spends a large amount of time with Sophie preparing for her wedding and trying to find out which one of the three men is her father, there is also a good portion of the film dedicated to the explanation of how this all came to be. Going back and telling this story is incredibly repetitive.
Along with a new director (Ol Parker), came an addition to the cast that was unnecessary. In the film’s opening Sophie is mailing invitations to her three fathers and her grandmother, whose invitation is torn up because she never shows up for anything. I would give a spoiler warning but if you’ve seen the trailer you already know that her grandmother (Cher) makes a grand entrance. Perhaps I’m asking too much but had this been left as a surprise reveal it would’ve been ten times more exciting. Instead you’re left wondering when Cher is inevitably going to show up and she sticks around for roughly 20 minutes. Someone else who is given a small amount of screen time is Meryl Streep. From the beginning we’re told that Donna has passed away and this feels pretty unfortunate for the film. Now I have to say that personally I didn’t enjoy Meryl Streep in the first film. I don’t think she gave the vocal performance that was required for her role. Even though there are a number of other acclaimed actors, I still think that Streep’s credibility and star power are missing here.
It’s not entirely fair but it’s impossible not to compare a sequel to its predecessor. I had small issues with the first film but was still able to have a lot of fun while watching it. This time around it wasn’t possible. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has too many issues and it lacked good music, the one thing that is a key element for a musical to be even somewhat successful.
2 out of 5 stars
Director: Ol Parker Writer: Ol Parker Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Andy Garcia & Cher Release Date: July 20th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hour and 54 minutes Image Credit: Universal Pictures via Imdb