No matter how bad things in your life get, you can rest assured that there will always be family and friends by your side to see you through it. They may even join you in a spontaneous, but somehow incredibly choreographed musical number. Okay, that last part is probably not a common occurrence. I would gather some of you may even suffer from a lack of emotional support and are struggling to make it through a single day. Well, I may not have the answer to all your problems, but I think I can put a smile on your face for a few hours. I must warn you though. Things could get silly.
In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, written and directed by Ol Parker, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is busy preparing for the grand opening of her mother’s hotel. Her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) has been deceased for a year now and it was her dream to one day have her home transformed into a vacationing paradise on the island of Kalokairi. Donna’s friends Tanya and Rosie are available for that necessary distraction from the million problems that go along with running your own business. Sam (Pierce Brosnan) is also around to lend a hand, but a new face has joined this tight-knit group. His name is Fernando (Andy Garcia) and he has been hired to manage the hotel. He is a charming gentleman and a poet when it comes to compliments. As Sophie tries to focus on the task at hand, she can’t help but reflect on her mother’s adventures as a young woman on this island. The stories of the past help to inform Sophie about her choices and what matters most above all else.
The most noticeable part of this movie is obviously the music. I never felt quite connected to the story of the first film because the music just didn’t feel organic to the plot. It was just set piece after set piece for the next number. In this, I find the story is perfectly married with the lyrics and music. The lines that are sung by all the actors, so effortlessly I might add, comes across as genuine and integral to the narrative. In fact, they made Pierce’s voice even tolerable. Instead of assigning him an over-the-top musical number this time around, they give him a gentle lullaby of a piece and it pairs well with the vulnerability in his character. Although I will admit the beginning of the movie does squeeze in too many songs. Or at least doesn’t let the scene breathe before inviting another. It eventually balances out.
A real question mark for this sequel is whether the past version of these characters would be as endearing as their present-day counterparts. I found Lily James’ performance as Donna to be fantastic. She showed a fearless personality with confidence beyond measure. It completely captures Donna’s spirit. Her interactions with the younger Tanya and Rosie are fun to watch. I also enjoyed Donna meeting Sam, Bill, and Harry for the first time. I think of the three, I am the most impressed with Jeremy Irvine as Sam. I could easily pick up on the subtle gestures and vocal inflections that were based on Pierce Brosnan’s take of the character. It didn’t just copy Pierce’s performance, but rather built upon the parts you would recognize and went from there. This is after all a Sam that is decades removed from the pain and maturity that Pierce’s Sam has endured.
I was torn between what parts of this movie I preferred. The flashbacks or the present day. Both have equally good amounts of humor and drama. I loved the bar scenes and the local band that plays on the island with younger Donna. The atmosphere added charm to the film and made the island feel more grounded in reality. Lily James’ voice is angelic, much like Amanda Seyfried. Then you have Tanya and Rosie. In either time period, they are hysterical. There is one particular performance involving Christine Baranski and Julie Walters that is such a classic mix of musical and comedy that it reminded me of the old comedic routines of vaudevillian actors. It’s scenes like this and the ones with younger Donna that make me not mind bouncing back and forth between time.
There are elements of this movie that might not appeal to everyone. It’s a straight-up musical but it can also be a silly musical at times. It does come back down to earth when it’s necessary though. There is a plot hole here and there, but nothing to gripe over. My only real issue with the film, apart from the uneven first 30 minutes, is Cher. She is an award-winning actress and can sing her heart out, but in this movie I found her Ruby character to be completely unnecessary in this movie. Not so much because it didn’t fit the story, but because she does not give a good acting performance. A cameo on Will and Grace is one thing, but this is supposed to be someone that shares history with Sophie’s mom. We should care more about her being there. Instead, it was more of a walk-on part for the legendary Cher and her musical numbers. Her song was the only one I thought was shoehorned in. Still, one character does not sink this ship of musical good fortune.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a sincere pleasure and will have you dancing in your seat. There are a lot of happy moments, but also a few tearjerkers. The final scene and song, before the credits, will tug at your heartstrings. It represents what this movie is about and also encapsulates the entire spirit of the first Mamma Mia! all in one. Amanda Seyfried adds emotional depth to her character and the film as a whole. Lily James does the same. It has good comedic timing, romantic settings, and music to lift your soul. The songs are why I decided to try this movie, but the story brings it all together. See this one in theaters with someone you love and try to find the cameos of the singers from Abba. Musicals have always had a special place in my heart. Looks like I can add another gem to my ever-growing collection.
About Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Synopsis: In this sequel to Mamma Mia!, as Sophie is about to open her deceased mother’s dream hotel, she learns about her early life and when she first came to the island as a college graduate.
Director: Ol Parker
Writers: Ol Parker, Richard Curtis, Catherine Johnson
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Andy Garcia, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Cher
Runtime: 1 Hour, 54 Minutes