Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, 2018.
Directed by Ol Parker.
Starring Lily James, Meryl Streep, 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, and Cher.
Sophie is preparing to re-open the family hotel in Greece when she discovers she’s pregnant. It all brings back memories of her mother, Donna, and as the opening night party grows nearer, she finds out more about her mother’s past and that of her three fathers.
A sequel and a film with a plot built around the back catalogue of one legendary group. It doesn’t sound great, does it? Neither the original Mamma Mia!, itself based on the stage show of the same name, nor its follow up, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, overflow with originality. Yet the remarkable thing is that it doesn’t matter in the slightest.
Those who saw the original ten years ago will be delighted that hardly anything has changed. The location is still Greece, although filming didn’t take place there, the cast are all back with the addition of some new faces and, of course, there’s all those Abba songs. At a rough guess, one every five minutes or so, which is an awful lot of Abba. It also means that Richard Curtis didn’t stand much of chance when it came to constructing a plot around them and, indeed, as narratives go, it’s as contrived as they come. Some of the songs are a good fit, others less so. One of the showstoppers in particular caused the entire audience at the screening attended by this reviewer to dissolve into uncontrollable giggles at the sheer cheesiness of it all. Yet, and importantly, there wasn’t a trace of cynicism or malice in that mirth.
When the first of the franchise was released, Pierce Brosnan’s singing ability – or lack of it – attracted more than a little attention. This time round, as soon as he opened his mouth to warble, there was a ripple of expectant laughter around the audience. His singing voice hasn’t improved in the ten years since the original but, if he can’t hold a note, then Dominic Cooper can’t even touch one. His efforts are worse than Brosnan’s and, as he cuts short every single one of his musical lines, it’s pretty clear he knows it. Generally, it’s a film where the men often come off second best, especially the more mature ones. The likes of Julie Walters, Christine Baranski and Cher (who really knows how to make an entrance) exude class and energy. The likes of Firth, Skarsgard and Brosnan look awkward, ill at ease and unconvincing. It’s left to the older women and the younger members of the cast to give the film its fizz and sparkle.
Yet, like the original, the response to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has been full of love and affection, a carbon copy of ten years ago. You can already see the singalong version looming on the horizon – Mamma Mia! double bill singalongs have to be on their way. It’s only a matter of time before it follows in the footsteps of The Greatest Showman. Here’s the skinny. As a film, it’s not that great. The plot is manufactured to fit in as many Abba songs as possible, the characters aren’t exactly rounded, the acting’s so-so and the whole thing whiffs very strongly of cheese. So why does everybody love it? It goes without saying that part of that is down to the music: it’s near impossible not to tap your toes, if not mouth some of the lyrics. It’s delightfully old fashioned and romantic. But, most of all, it knows full well it’s no work of art and it couldn’t care less. All it wants is for everybody to have a great time and that’s exactly what it delivers.
Working on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” principle, the film is a near carbon copy of the original. There may not be as much glitter as you might expect, but there’s more than enough and the energy coming off the screen is incredibly infectious, so how can you resist it? As far as being the feelgood film of the summer is concerned, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a feta-compli!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Freda Cooper. Follow me on Twitter.