Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again - A Surprisingly Improved Sequel
The 2008 adaptation of the musical, Mamma Mia, for me was a messy, poorly thought-out, non humorous mess featuring bad singing renditions of classic Abba songs. As someone who despised the first film, I’m pleasantly surprised to report the long belated and unnecessary sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is actually an utter delight. It improves upon the first in just about every aspect: dance choreography, humor, and use of story, among other aspects. It’s what the first film wanted to be, but failed.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, in some ways, acts like a remake and retread of the first, being very similarly structured. This time around, however, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is grieving over the loss of her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), while preparing for the grand reopening of Donna’s Hotel on a Greek island. As she reflects on her mom, the film cuts back and forth with scenes showing Donna as a young woman, portrayed by Lily James, as Sophie discovers just how alike she and her mom are.
The film improves a lot from the first, especially in the music numbers and singing. With a new Director, Ol Parker, replacing Phyllida Lloyd, who was a stage director with no real film experience, the direction and choreography is very much noticeably improved and better. Though the film repeats the use of Abba favorites, such as Dancing Queen, and Knowing Me, Knowing You, it also adds some great new numbers, like Fernando, and When I Kissed The Teacher (in the film opener), and the singing is better. My favorite song rendition was the version of Waterloo, depicting a young Donna and a young Harry (Hugh Skinner, also in Poldark) dancing. Pierce Brosnan, known for his bad singing voice in the first movie, briefly reprises S.O.S., but it’s shortened and less painful to listen to as a result.
This film is also much funnier than the first. The first Mamma Mia had a lot of really cringey humor. This one seems zannier and even somewhat cartoony. For example, when Donna first gets her house on the island, she slides down the stairs, only for them to break because it’s unfinished and falling apart. The film has that sorts of slapstick humor. A lot of the laughs in the film surprisingly came from Andy Garcia who plays an older, charming Spanish man, named Fernando, who the ladies, particularly, Tanya (Christine Baranski) have the hots for.
Most of the cast from the original film are back, and the songs feel more important to the overall story. I was quite impressed with Lily James as young Donna. She really has the right mannerisms in portraying a younger Meryl Streep, and is a joy to watch in this part. Amanda Seyfried is also really good as Sophie, and carries most of the film. Her relationship with her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), and her pregnancy almost seem secondary to the crazy proceedings of reopening the hotel. These two storylines have duality, and work better as parallels than you might expect. I should also add that the other two fathers are back (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard), but their roles are much more limited. While Cher is good, if not a bit miscast (I still can’t buy Cher as Meryl Streep’s mother), as Donna’s mother, whose relationship with her daughter and granddaughter was basically nonexistent.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is good entertainment. It improves upon the first Mamma Mia in just about every way. The songs are catchy, are performed better, and the movie has a nice energy to it. It’s a bit on the loose side, not the most engaging or particularly strong romantic comedy, which is what it’s clearly trying to be, but, as a whole, it’s a very charming film. One of the pleasant surprises of the summer. Recommended.
Now playing in Lebanon at Entertainment Cinema on Sunday - Thursdays 12:30, 3:30, and 6:30 PM, and Friday and Saturday, 3:30, 6:35, and 9:35 PM.