Take a Chance on Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The film sequel reunites Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, and more on a Greek island party DJ'd by ABBA.
The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself. A decade after it hit the big screen (and nearly 20 years since it first premiered onstage), Mamma Mia! is back, and this time in sequel form. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reunites us with old friends and introduces new ones, while the buoyant tunes of the legendary Swedish band ABBA help tell the second-most legitimately ridiculous story you've ever heard. And you know what that means. "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" isn't just the perfect summertime distraction; it's even more fun and entertaining than the original.
A sequel and prequel simultaneously, writer-director Ol Parker's Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again looks at where the characters are now, while exploring their origin stories. In the present day, Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is about to open a luxury hotel on the Greek island of Kalokairi. Sam (Pierce Brosnan), one of her three possible dads, designed the resort. Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) are in town for the grand opening.
Elsewhere in the world, Sophie's husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in New York pursuing an invaluable opportunity, while her two other potential fathers, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) also have important matters keeping them from attending the festivities. As for Sophie's mom, Donna (Meryl Streep), well…let's just say our suspicions from the trailers prove accurate.
As Sophie deals with several major life changes, the film flashes back 30-odd years and introduces us to the younger versions of several key characters. Donna (Lily James) wants to see the world, and with the begrudging blessings of best pals Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies), she sets off for France and then to Greece, where she has her first encounters with the three young men who potentially fathered her child: Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Sam (Jeremy Irvine).
It's safe to say that back in 1999, the creators of Mamma Mia! weren't expecting it to be successful enough to warrant a sequel. The brainchild of producer Judy Cramer, the original show, written by Catherine Johnson and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, uses all of ABBA's best-known hits, from the title number to "Dancing Queen" to "Take a Chance on Me." Unfortunately, that doesn't leave much for part 2, and Parker (who also penned the screenplay based on a story he devised with Johnson and producer Richard Curtis) utilizes a lot of the same material in different contexts, with the addition of several B-list ABBA songs.
As a result, Here We Go Again has less of a sing-along quality than the first (they reached deep into the canon to find tunes like "Andante, Andante" and "My Love, My Life"), and it's only when the big hits appear that it really comes to life. In Parker and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman's hands, "Dancing Queen" 2018 is as jubilant a musical number as we've ever seen onscreen — and it will make you wish you were part of the scene itself.
Overall, the song presentation is the same as in the first movie and the screenplay has as much cheese and camp as the original, albeit with higher stakes. It more or less sticks to continuity, though seems to forget certain plot points crucial to the original: You're not the only one who forgot that Firth's Harry is gay.
But what makes Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again work so well is that it looks and feels like a gigantic party. Brosnan still can't sing, yet performs with the gusto of a superstar. Keenan Wynn is a dead-ringer for Baranski and has the same hilariously sharp-edged delivery. James is luminous as the young Donna Sheridan. The men are handsome, the women are gorgeous, and they're all surrounded by stunning Grecian vistas, leaving enough for everyone to enjoy.
Late in the game, we meet another new character. Sophie's music superstar grandmother comes for a visit, after living in the wilds of Las Vegas for way too long. With platinum-blond hair, dark glasses, and a face that doesn't really move, her character is called Ruby Sheridan, but they might as well just refer to her by her real-life name: Cher.
Cher's much-touted appearance is without question the highlight of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and when she recognizes Andy Garcia (as the mysterious hotelier Señor Cienfuegos) in the distance and yells his name — "Fernando!" — we know exactly what's coming. It's precisely why Mamma Mia! has been such a success to begin with, and this follow-up, perfectly in keeping with the tone of the source material, is a worthy successor.