Here we go again. That’s the title of the sequel to the 2008 smash hit Mamma Mia. But this time around, the trip is not as fun, the ABBA songs not as well-known, and the plot even more ridiculous. Luckily, Cher enters in the third act to save this sappy but at times charming sequel.
The Prequel Problem
As we’ve seen with several films this year, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! suffers from the prequel problem. The first film was adapted from a successful musical with the same name. The follow-up feels pieced together, switching back and forth between the present, where Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is trying to re-open her late mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) hotel, and the past, which depicts how a young Donna (Lily James) became pregnant with Sophie via three potential suitors.
The identity of Sophie’s father is the device that drove the first film; in the second, it’s inconsequential as she has strong relationships with all three. Instead, her battle is with a looming storm, literally.
The film incorporates more obscure tracks from ABBA’s discography — including “One of Us” and “Andante, Andante” — to tell of Donna’s dalliances and desires to do something on her own (opening a hotel). Popular songs from the first film like “Dancing Queen” and the titular “Mamma Mia” — are re-used. Some numbers feel lifted straight from the first film; the townspeople once again descend to the docks singing “Dancing Queen.” Lily James performs most of the vocals in Here We Go Again! She has a sweet voice, but lacks some of older Donna’s swagger (and thankfully Amanda Seyfried’s vibrato).
Younger audiences who do not know the more obscure songs end up waiting for the more familiar ones to come on. They’re treated to eye candy in the forms of young Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Harry (Hugh Skinner).
The men are so impossibly attractive that the women ask, “Jesus Christ, what kind of island is this?” And while the men are easy on the eyes, they’re hard on the ears. Each has a mercifully short solo, and their older counterparts (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, and Colin Firth) even less. However, when the familiar melodies do come, moviegoers can’t help but smile and tap their feet along. That’s the magic of ABBA’s music.
There are some additional highlights. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters reprise their roles as Tanya and Rosie, Donna’s best friends and bandmates. Once again, they provide much of the laughs, especially during the cheesy group choreography numbers. Even their younger versions are quite funny; Jessica Keenan Wynn channels young temptress Tanya perfectly, while Alexa Davies proves Rosie’s always had spunk.
Of course, the sequel’s biggest savior is Cher, who plays Sophie’s estranged grandmother Ruby Sheridan, a famous Las Vegas headliner. Cher’s performance is so over the top (like any diva, she has multiple wig and outfit changes in the limited scenes she’s in) that viewers can’t help but laugh. It’s sheer, or should we say, Cher ridiculousness. And audiences eat it up.
Is Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! Good?
Even the most diehard ABBA fans wouldn’t call Here We Go Again! good, but it’s cute with a few surprisingly tender moments. Not least of which is an ending duet to “My Love, My Life.” And of course, the stunt casting of Cher can’t be missed.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! opens on Friday, July 20.