Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Director: Ol Parker Writer: Ol Parker, Catherine Johnson, Richard Curtis Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Dominic Cooper, Cher, Meryl Streep Studio: Universal Pictures Rated PG-13 | 114 Minutes Release Date: July 20, 2018
No one ever asked for a sequel (or prequel) to Mamma Mia! and yet, here we are, with Universal Pictures releasing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the newest installment of the musical franchise that has a penchant for breaking out in song and dance to ABBA. And here is the surprising thing about that hybrid sequel and prequel. It’s actually good. No, scratch that, it’s really good.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the film you can’t help but tap your foot to when the music feels good, and cry to when there’s a ballad to be sung. Though the story may be some white noise, the cast has fun with the material they are given. But the true standout is Lily James, who shines with a spirited energy that is so infectious, you can’t help but join in on the fun. Check out the full review below.
The film has two different timelines. One tells the story of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who is racing to finish remodeling her late mother’s (Meryl Streep) villa into a lovely hotel. Though her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is on the other side of the world, Sophie is determined to finish what she started. Though ominous clouds loom over, threatening to put a damper on her sunny disposition.
Still, with the help of her mother’s friends, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), Sophie realizes that she isn’t alone. She also has the support of her three father Sam, Bill and Harry (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth), and her long-distance husband. And maybe an absent grandmother (Cher) who knows how to throw a party.
While Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again does have a thin story and a rather predictable plot, it is, without a doubt, a love letter to mothers and daughters. Through the film’s use of music, we see that even the ravages of time cannot destroy the bond between the two. And even though it may seem like the differing time periods are jostling for screen time, that war between the two is also an asset as we get to see two different characters in two different times doing the things that make their souls shine. We see a younger Donna mature through song and dance. That kind of development seems hereditary considering that Sophie will go through a similar struggle now that she is pregnant with her own child and no mother by her side. Luckily, she has her three dads and the loving support of her husband.
And while there isn’t much of a story to begin with, all of the film’s energy goes into the song and dance, making Here We Go Again feel like a never-ending party. The cast clearly look like they are having fun, but it is James’ scene-stealing performance that is the highlight of the entire film. She bursts onto the scene with joyful energy. It’s hard to resist the temptation of tapping your feet or singing along to whenever her free-spirit gives a show-stopping performance of an ABBA song. She provides a delightfully sweet look into what made Donna become the person fans of the original fell in love with. In fact, one could argue that James deserves to have her own Mamma Mia! movie.
Still, the editing is somewhat of an interesting dichotomy. For one thing, the transitions from past to present or vice-versa are harmless fun. As the camera pans to the ocean blue water or a clear sky, it acts as a portal to whatever time period it wants to take us. On the other hand, the two time periods feel like they are jostling for the crown of “Dancing Queen.” Clearly everyone in either time period can dance and jive. But it is almost unfair that they all have to share screen time, and with a 114 minute runtime, there isn’t nearly enough dance floor to go around.
Let’s not forget just how crazy the dance numbers can be. What a world it would be to know that people would not judge a person if they broke out into song spontaneously or just made a graduation a dance party – the latter is probably going to hook you in if you aren’t a fan of the first. Is it crazy? Sure. But credit to James for making it look like a lot of fun and a bit of a life experience.
And the three men that she meets who have an impact on her life, Sam (Jeremy Irvine), young Harry (Hugh Skinner), and young Bill (Josh Dylan), bring in a different kind of charm to woo her. And yes, it’s a struggle to watch Brosnan try to sing. Not only that, but she would change their lives as well. And Rosie and Tanya bring in their own hard-hitting advice to Sophie whenever she needs it, which provides the film with some laughs, even though it’s already fluffy enough as it is. Their counterparts young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and young Rosie (Alexa Davies) prove that not much has changed. But that’s okay.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again isn’t the best musical out there, by no means. But in a summer that is filled with superhero universes, dinosaur chases, and burning skyscrapers, it’s nice to know that we can take a break from it all by breaking out into song and dance. While the narrative smothers you with its sweetness, it is still a very fun watch. Especially when James gives it her all in this one. And whenever it gives her a chance to shine, you know that you are in for the time of your life.