By: BabyRuth (Two Beers) –
Here we go again indeed.
Another decade-later sequel to a movie that didn’t require one and that we never asked for.
This time we dive deeper into ABBA’s catalog and get both an update and an expanded backstory on the characters of Mamma Mia!
Did we need this?
No, no we did not.
Does that matter?
No, no it does not.
Is it a good time?
Hell yes it is.
Serving as both a sequel and a prequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again may at first seem like a cash-grab or excuse for a reunion/vacation for the cast, but it is far better than it has any right to be.
The overall feel is charming and breezy, like the gorgeous backdrop of the small Greek island on which it is set. Everything is drenched in warm sunlight. The costumes are equal parts Coachella and Studio 54 –flowy, colorful, and I want every single one. Every element blends together seamlessly, even when it really shouldn’t. Maybe it’s because these days we are just so starved for something cheerful, earnest, and positive that watching shiny, happy, people frolicking about a beautiful island paradise while performing 70s pop tunes is a welcome escape from the insanity that is our world that we need more than ever.
I want to go to there.
Without revealing a major plot-point, I should disclose that while she is heavily featured on the posters and in the trailers, Meryl Streep does not show up until the end of the movie. It is a bit jarring at first to learn this information (which we do early on) and but not as hard to settle back into the film as one would think.
There is a lot of Donna though, the 1979 version to be exact, portrayed by Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver). Yes, 1979- why, that would be the summer Donna had, um, dot-dot-dot sessions with those three possible babydaddies. We get to see how each of those dalliances played out with young Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Harry (Hugh Skinner). We also get young versions of Donna’s besties and bandmates Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn).
The film bounces between the past and present, with past Donna and present daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) experiencing parallel life events all while spontaneously breaking into song and dance.
The cast, both returning and new additions, are all great and give off an infectious energy. (Yes, Pierce Brosnan sings in this one too, though less than in the first film, and he’s a great sport so leave him alone!) It’s evident this shoot was a huge party and everyone genuinely enjoyed the experience. Lily James carries much of the film and nearly walks away with it, daring the viewer to just to try to hate her unbridled enthusiasm. Of course you can’t because she is endearing and wonderful and who cares that she looks absolutely nothing like Meryl Streep?!
Christine Baranski as Tanya once again gets some of the best lines and is a hoot –I don’t think I’ve ever used that term non-ironically in my life, but sue me, she is a hoot and a goddamn treasure, as is Jessica Keenan Wynn as her character’s younger version. The resemblance is uncanny and I would spend non-MoviePass cash money to see a third film featuring even deeper ABBA cuts focusing on Tanya’s backstory starring those two.
And then, descending from the heavens like the goddess she is, there’s Cher. I’d venture to guess that this entire movie came to be after someone came up with the idea to write her in and she agreed. Like with Streep, the audience needs to exercise some patience (she appears in the last act, naturally getting a grand, helicoptered entrance which was unfortunately spoiled in the trailers), but it’s worth the wait for a duet with fellow new-to-the-Mamma Mia!-universe Andy Garcia that is bonkers and cheesy in the absolute best way.
The musical performances are brilliantly staged and choreographed, far better than in the first film. (I especially loved the classic musical feel of “Waterloo”). Even if a person isn’t an ABBA diehard familiar with the more obscure selections, each song is catchy and moves the story along. Speaking of, we also get reprises of the ones everyone knows (“Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia,” etc.)
It’s all joyous, silly, fun…
And then, WHAMMO!
Along comes a gut-punch in the feelings. It’s one of those scenes where your internal dialogue is all “I’m not gonna cry, nope, I know what they’re going to do and I’m not falling for it…Nope, not going to do it..” and you’re pinching your hand trying to distract yourself from ugly-crying but eventually you have to give in and you’re a sobbing, blubbering mess. (It also didn’t help that the scene I’m referring to was a bittersweet mother-daughter one and I was sitting next to my own mother, who was also crying and then HUGGED ME). But the tears are earned and it’s beautifully done and excuse me for a minute…
Aside from being a more than passable sequel and an arguably better overall movie than the first, there are a few issues, especially when it comes to the storylines. It’s probably best not to focus on the details too much. Like, the weird timeline (What year is it supposed to be? 2005? But there are iPhones! Cher is Meryl Streep’s mother despite the two being nearly the same age? Why does the band in the restaurant never get any older?), continuity issues (the order of Donna’s trysts with Harry, Bill, and Sam – something I didn’t notice until I re-watched the 2008 film after seeing Here We Go Again), and general WTF (Who was taking care of that horse? What is everyone so freaked out over a tiny bit of rain that knocked over like, two chairs? Why would a woman declare herself pregnant after throwing up once and tell everyone without –at the very least –taking a pregnancy test first? ) Again, best to just enjoy the music, dancing, and scenery and not think about those things. In the end, none of that stuff really matters anyway.
Look, You already know if you’re going to see this one or not. If you are, you’ll probably enjoy quite a bit. Possibly even more than you thought you would. I definitely did.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a rare example of a well-done sequel – familiar without being a rehash, with elements of everything that made the first fun plus an unexpected amount of heart and depth.
And also, Cher.
Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a new song starts
Do Another: when it’s a song featured in the original film
Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Take a Drink: whenever Rosie eats cake
Take a Drink: every time the passport guy comments on someone’s picture
Take a drink: whenever Tanya flirts with a man
Do a Shot: when Pierce Brosnan sings
Do a Shot: when young Donna sleeps with young Sam, Bill, and Harry
Do a Shot and Bow: Cher
Continue Drinking (as needed) and Call your Mother (well, after the movie!): during “My Love, My Life” scene
Last Call: there is a brief after-credits scene (this is after the glorious final curtain call number featuring the entire cast together)