Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, 2018
Written and Directed by Ol Parker
Starring Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Alexa Davies, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Cher, and Meryl Streep
In this sequel to Mamma Mia!, Sophie learns about her mother’s past while pregnant herself.
Full disclosure: I have never actually seen the original Mamma Mia! and also have no knowledge of the Catherine Johnson musical it is based on, which itself is a story initially considered by Judy Craymer. Really, the only thing I knew coming into the sequel were the basics of the plot and the songs featured from Abba. However, the part of me that came into this lively, upbeat, romantic fantasy musical expecting to completely loathe it for its extreme dissonance from reality actually came only surprised and satisfied to a degree.
Presumably, like its predecessor, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again tells another rather loose narrative presenting the history of old flames, only this time it’s during the whirlwind of inexplicable love (pretty much everyone in this movie lives by the phrase “love at first sight”) Donna (played by Lily James in her young adult years and a returning Meryl Streep in the present day) experienced first visiting the prominently depicted gorgeous Greek paradise island over a short period of time sleeping around with the three different men that all have an equal chance of impregnating her with her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried is also back).
Thankfully, writer and director Ol Parker isn’t interested in taking over filmmaking duties to retread previously covered ground by making the identity of the true father the backbone of the story. Structurally, he seems to be repeating the first film; as Sophie is preparing to reopen the hotel with a grand extravagant celebration she’s also bracing herself to be a mother, paving the way for nonstop flashbacks that juxtapose the two mothers-to-be and her interactions with three loving fathers that often provide silly humor that fits the tone. Donna was surrounded by a bunch of men that kept screwing up while Sophie is going to tackle the challenge with as much support as possible by her side.
However, there is one very important person missing; Donna herself. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is heavily marketing the fact that its entire main cast has returned for the sequel, and as previously mentioned, that is still true in the case of Meryl Streep but it’s more of a cameo deal. She has now passed away, but Lily James stepping into her shoes as a charming firecracker wide-eyed with a thirst for traveling the world and getting lost in various romances (extra applause is deserved for never once going down the route of slut-shaming her or anything for experimenting very freely) is easily the most entertaining aspect.
Keep in mind, this is also a film that ends with some beautiful fireworks and super saccharine character exchanges sure to leave more emotional viewers leaking a fountain from their eyes, so that’s not really saying much, but I digress. Lily James continues to be fantastic, especially in musical settings (she also radiated beauty and charm in last year’s Baby Driver). Presentation goes a long way, and her infectious energy coupled with excellent choreography and a vivid color palette in both outside and inside environments are enough to allow the proceedings to simply breeze on by.
Unfortunately, at around the 90-minute mark, the film overstays its welcome and decides that it doesn’t want to end, continuously going into another elaborate song and dance segment that feels as if it could be the ending, but astonishingly isn’t. Even when you’re for sure the movie is over and is going to fade to black, there’s yet another musical number stretching out the length of the ending credits. The point is, it actually became irritating but the filmmakers didn’t realize when enough was enough. The movie already rambles on and on with less of a narrative than its predecessor, only to come completely crashing down after the first song of the third act, which quite frankly is actually the perfect moment to begin wrapping things up with the touching epilogue. Regardless, it’s hard to complain too much when you have Lily James and Abba in the same movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com