UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2018)

 

Director: Ol Parker

 

Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Cher, Meryl Streep

Grab your dancing shoes and your sparkly get up, because we’re off to Kalokairi again!

 

It’s been a decade since Mamma Mia! burst onto our screens full of verve, colour, cheese (lots of it) and a handsome reminder that ABBA have a fabulous greatest hits behind them. It was also a story that had a pretty definite ending, but alas, here we are with a sequel released just in time to catch the summer sun and (hopefully) have us dancing in the aisles once more.

Bouncing between present day and 1979, the movie tells the story of how young Donna Sheridan (James) followed her dreams to Greece to find her destiny. What she did find was three handsome young men along the way – Sam, Harry and Bill (who we, of course, meet in Mamma Mia!) – who all provide some summer fun before she falls pregnant with her daughter Sophie (Seyfried). Now, Sophie is re-opening her mother’s hotel on the island, but has her own troubles – two of her three ‘fathers’ can’t make it, her husband seemingly values his career more and the weather sucks. But, when trouble strikes, all you need are good friends and ABBA.

 

Mamma mia, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you?

 

Indeed.

 

Mamma Mia! was a surprise smash way back in 2008 and Universal seemed happy to follow the seeming trend of waiting an eternity to release a follow-up (that maybe wasn’t even necessary in terms of story). With Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, we get a sequel and a prequel (surely negating the need for another movie) all in one and this time around, the greater focus on the story benefits the movie overall. That’s not to say the narrative is great, because it isn’t – it’s full of cliché and contrivance, but good gosh is it fun to watch.

 

Filling the sparkly heels of Meryl Streep, Lily James is a joy to watch as she wonderfully captures the carefree attitude of the Donna we previously met. Singing, dancing and smiling her way through the movie, it’s a great performance by a very up-and-coming actress. Baranski and Walters reteam once more for the movies best lines and the hapless trio of Brosnan, Skarsgård and Firth will bring a smile to your face once more – though their younger counterparts were very good also, especially Hugh Skinner as a young Colin Firth. Sadly, Seyfried is relegated to the movies weaker moments before a rousing final act brings her story home.

 

When the movie follows Donna through 1979, it feels at its best – there’s a light, summery feel to proceedings and it all feels a bit more...fun. The latter day scenes feel less urgent and the subplots are frankly a bit rubbish. A major point to note is that where Mamma Mia! was a thunderous tip of the cap to ABBA’s greatest moments, Here We Go Again has a lot less to work with and the collection this time is less polished, with a few songs from the first reimagined once more. With the selection of offer, it did become clear later on that elements of the story were simply written to include these moments, rather than the other way around. However, the final act of the movie provides a fittingly poignant conclusion to the two movies and worked extremely well all leading to a full-cast rendition of Super Trouper. There’s not much here that will surprise anyone and the big reunions will have you feeling a bit warm inside, despite the inherent corniness of it all.

 

Pierce Brosnan does sing again, but it’s very much stripped back this time and Cher is disappointing with her number – no turning back time here, Cher.

 

Fans of the first will have a great time once more and may even appreciate that the story comes first this time – it feels more like a cinematic musical then an adapted stage show. Let your hair down, dust off your hips and have some fun, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a summery blast of music and fun...even if the story is a bit rubbish.

July 24th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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