Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the sequel nobody asked for but most people will go and see, probably with their mothers in tow. Shimmying into cinemas ten years after its predecessor Mamma Mia!, this half prequel, half sequel is like the florid daydream of a carefree teenager – blue skies, Grecian seas, beautiful smiling people, Cher is there.
The film follows Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she rebuilds the hotel and prepares for its grand reopening, as a tribute to her mother’s legacy. A few minor setbacks, including an exaggerated disagreement between Sophie and her world-away husband Sky (Dominic Cooper), basically comprise the plot of the ‘sequel’ part. Meanwhile, the film cleverly shifts between current day and the late 1970’s, recounting the tale of how Sophie’s mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), found her way to the Greek island and into the beds of three different men (of course causing the dilemma of Sophie’s parentage explored in the first film). Unfortunately, there is no such binding plot in this sequel, but what it lacks in substance it makes up for in spectacle, sentiment and stars. Returning to their original roles are Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård as Donna’s former lovers, with Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan playing their respective younger selves. Young Donna is played by Lily James, who is effervescent and perfect for the role, carrying the film on beauty and youthful exuberance alone. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski also return as the remaining members of Donna and the Dynamos, with their younger counterparts played by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan. Other note-worthy celebrities include Andy Garcia and, of course, Cher, with cameo appearances by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.
The film is written and directed by Ol Parker, known for penning The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, so he knows how to make baby boomers happy. Parker has done well to find ABBA songs not already used up in the original film that have been roughly squished into narrative shape. Any drama in the film is tepid at best, but this is not a film for any serious thought provocation, melancholy or character development. It spends most of its screen time getting all the main characters from the first film back in the same place long enough for a reprise of the songs that made the first film such a hit. A devious marketing campaign and cleverly cut trailers suggest more than ever eventuates in the film. It seems like Cher’s contract specifically stated she had to have a certain amount of unnecessary screen-time and painful ‘dancing’. But, really, she’s there to be a name on a poster and draw in eager patrons who want to ogle at how she looks younger than both her film daughter (Streep) and granddaughter (Seyfried).
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is visually pleasant, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but mostly charming, saccharine and brimming with stimulating and colourful dance numbers. Cinematography wise, it’s brilliant and beautiful. The film remains light-hearted, touching only briefly on any sadder moments, and manages to ground an absurdly tenuous narrative with a touching finale duet between Streep and Seyfried. There’s also an after-credit blooper scene if you want to stay that long.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a golden bubble of escapism, with all the sunshine and air that the target audience requires. It’s exactly what you’d expect of a Mamma Mia! sequel.
I rate this film 6.5/10.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is in cinemas from July 19th.