Release Date: July 20, 2018
Cast: Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgârd, Julie Walters, Cher, Meryl Streep
Director: Ol Parker
Studio: Playtone; Littlestar Productions; Legendary Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Pictures
IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | Wikipedia
Spoilers: High (all warned beforehand)
Pardon the maritime pun, but Meryl Streep’s character’s death in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again sure did take the wind out of the sails of this movie.
The trailers walked this mysterious line between hinting that Donna died and that she’s hiding just around the corner.
So I did what any good Millennial does before they see a movie: consult the internet for spoilers.
It appeared like she wouldn’t be in the movie from the trailers, but another article on IMDB suggested that there’s a plotline about Amanda Seyfried finding a way to tell her mother that she’s pregnant.
Either way, I had to arrive emotionally prepared. Still, there’s no way that they could kill off Meryl, right? …Right?
Wrong. The movie starts out with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) reopening her mother’s hotel on the Greek Island. Her husband is off in New York learning the tricks of the hotel trade, and Donna is long gone, having died an indiscriminate amount of time ago. (Was Meryl too expensive? Busy with other projects? Only free for that one scene near the end of the movie??)
From the beginning, it looks like a lot of the big names (two of Sophie’s three fathers) won’t be returning for the film before they make a pleasant surprise appearance near the last third of the movie. The movie follows Sophie as she reopens her mother’s hotel and contends with her own marital issues later discovering she’s pregnant. In the meantime, we flash back to Young Donna (Lily James) when she first meets Sophie’s dads.
I really enjoyed the first Mamma Mia! film — it was a pure, clean, kitschy musical delight. It balanced storyline with song and each individual performance was outstanding.
The sequel is equally playful but doesn’t hit as hard emotionally as much as the first movie. Sophie reopening the hotel and learning about her mother’s past just didn’t resonate as much as when Sophie was getting married and meeting her fathers.
Absolutely none of the blame for the lack of emotion comes from Lily James, who delivers a vocally stunning performance as Young Donna, or her friends who are little doppelganger of her Dynamo friends. (Whoever did casting for this movie deserves all the awards for finding these two — young Christine Baranski played by Jessica Keenan Wynn was eerily spot-on.)
Lily James is nothing short of electric. She’s all sunshine, the brightest thing burning on the screen in every scene. Her level of exuberance and carefree attitude carry the movie. All the women outperformed the men, especially the young men: Young Donna’s friends were fabulous for comedic relief, as was Cher’s appearance and connection to the Hotel Manager (Andy García).
Unfortunately, the young male leads can’t hold a candle to her performance.
I found the young men to be stilted in their acting and underwhelming in their singing.
Apart from the male leads, the movie also dragged a little with its runtime (nearly 2 hours!) and probably could have been about thirty minutes shorter without losing any of the fun.
It’s very difficult returning to this series for a sequel because a lot of the iconic ABBA songs were already used up in the first movie. The second movie tried to overcompensate for this by jam-packing 17 songs into the movie (only about 53 minutes were not filled with songs), most of which didn’t seem to quite fit the scene lyrically or emotionally, unlike the first film. However, it did hit the crowd-pleasers (“Dancing Queen”, “Mamma Mia” ) again for good measure.
Regardless of the oddly placed songs, the choreography was fantastic and fun to watch — it was colors and dancers and costumes flying across the screen in coordinated campy formations.
Other than those few sour notes, Mamma Mia! Here we go Again is a delight, even if it isn’t quite as good as the first time around. Go watch it to see the brilliant Lily James or go to feel nostalgic about the old movie; it’ll be fun either way.