“Here we go again” is a phrase that comes to mind (and often accompanied by an eye-roll or an audible groan) for many movie fans when they see studios announce unnecessary sequels for their favorite films. And as an avid ABBA aficionado, I certainly wasn’t expecting or clamoring for a sequel. However, in the days where originality is passé and studios seem to rely solely on intellectual property (IP) with pre-awareness, sequels and reboots are what they bet on. Yet unfortunately it’s hard to blame them: all of the top 10 most profitable films of last year with the exception of Get Out were all sequels, reboots, or adaptations of preexisting IPs (you can check out the list here). It’s difficult to argue with Universal making a sequel to Mamma Mia! because it made $609 million dollars at the global box office. And as much as I bemoan unneeded and ill-thought sequels, I will say that this movie blew all my expectations out of water.
Here’s the synopsis:
Five years after the events of Mamma Mia!, on the Greek island of Kalokairi, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is pregnant with Sky’s (Dominic Cooper) child while running her mother, Donna’s (Meryl Streep) villa, who has passed a year prior to the events of the film. Her relationship with Sky has been turbulent for some time, giving her cause to doubt that she can survive without her mother. With Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie’s (Julie Walters) guidance, Sophie will find out more of Donna’s past, including how she fronted The Dynamos, started her villa on the island from nothing, met each one of Sophie’s dads, Sam, Bill and Harry (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth), and raised a daughter, without a mother to guide her. She also has an unexpected visit from someone she has never even met: her estranged maternal grandmother, Ruby Sheridan (Cher).
The first thing you should know going into this movie is that the tone of the film is VASTLY different from the first one. While the first one is campy, this one charming and sweet. It took me about 40 minutes to get used to the shift in tone and to get past a bit of clunky screenwriting in the first act, but once I did, my enjoyment of the movie went through the roof.
The characterizations are vastly richer than the first, to its betterment. I had heard that Richard Curtis (About Time, Notting Hill, and Love Actually) had done a rewrite of the script to this movie, which gave me pause because (1) I thought he had retired, (2) he’s a really fantastic screenwriter, and (3) my expectations for this movie were rock bottom. His mark is definitely on display in making the film more moving and just overall better.
It’s no secret that they cast younger versions of the stars to show us the events that are only referenced in the first film. Most of them are just doing impressions of their older doppelgangers. These impressions are quite brilliant and I’m really happy that they did it that way. However, they decided to have Lily James do more of her own thing than do a caricature of Meryl Streep’s performance, which felt off putting at first compared to the others. But once I got used to what she was doing, I was all in. Also, although Cher doesn’t deliver the best performance of her life, she does add to the movie is amazing ways.
Lastly, I will just say something about the song choices. I’m a massive ABBA fan (they are in my top 3 favorite bands of all time) and I was kind of shocked at some of the obscure song choices. However, they did include my two favorites, so I can’t mark them down too much. And the “Waterloo” musical number alone is worth the price of admission.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is actually better than the first film in almost every way. The characters are richer and the cast additions are just so fantastic.
Although this film is a bit less crass than the first one, it still earns its PG-13 rating. There are sexual jokes and promiscuity, although not explicit.