Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
by Hope Madden
You may be asking yourself, is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just 90 minutes of second-rate, b-side Abba songs? All those weird songs that no sensible story about unplanned pregnancy could call for? Songs like Waterloo?
Nope. It is nearly two full hours of it.
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) wants to open her mother’s crumbling Greek hotel as an upscale island resort. She’s so terribly angsty about it! Will anyone come to the grand opening? Will her mom be proud of her? Can she handle the pressure if her husband’s traveling and two of her three dads can’t make it?
Transition to a simpler time, a time when her mom Donna was young (played by Lily James), bohemian and striking out on her own. She has chutzpah. She has friends who love her. She has great hair.
The majority of the sequel to Phillida Lloyd’s 2008 smash looks back on the romantic voyage that created the three dad business of the first film.
James is a fresh and interesting a young version of the character Meryl Streep brought to life in the original. Likewise, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies make wonderful younger selves for Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters).
The three dads have young counterparts as well, though only Harry (Colin Firth/Hugh Skinner) lands a memorable characterization. Firth is reliably adorable while Skinner’s socially awkward young man is as embarrassing and earnest as we might have imagined.
Expect an awful lot of needless angst and long stretches without humor. Whether present-time or flashback, the film desperately misses the funny friends. Desperately. But when they are onscreen, Here We Go Again cannot help but charm and entertain.
The story is weaker, although there is a reason for that. While the original gift-wrapped an origin story to plumb, the plumbing is slow going when you still have to abide by the Abba songtacular gimmick.
The sequel’s musical numbers rely too heavily on slow tunes and stretch too far to make the odder Abba songs work, but in a way, that is, in fact, the movie’s magic.
Your best bet is to abandon yourself to the sheer ridiculousness of it. There is literally no other way to enjoy it.