Before seeing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, let’s take a look at where it all started.
Synopsis: Donna, an independent hotelier in the Greek islands, is preparing for her daughter’s wedding with the help of two old friends. Meanwhile Sophie, Donna’s spirited daughter, has a plan of her own. She secretly invites to the wedding three men from her mother’s past in hopes of meeting her real father and having him escort her down the aisle on her big day. (Rovi)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Amanda Seyfried
Writer: Catherine Johnson
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 108mins
It seems so obvious at this point but if you are not a fan of the Swedish pop group ABBA, then you will probably not enjoy this film. This film is a musical of course that was dedicated to the group, heavily featuring their music in a series of spectacular musical numbers befitting said songs. However, the main problem with film musicals is the strength of the moments whenever there isn’t singing and how they connect to the musical numbers. There has to be a reason for the singing so it doesn’t come off as gratuitous. This film never found the right balance between its story and musical numbers, however, there were still plenty of entertaining moments to be had thanks to the musical numbers themselves.
The story itself was rather simple and was about a female hotel owner named Donna (Streep) who is preparing her daughter Sophie’s (Seyfried) wedding. Sophie had other plans as she went ahead and invited three men from her mother’s past named Sam (Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), and Harry (Colin Firth) in the hopes of finding her real father just in time for her wedding day. That was pretty much it. We already know that the next film focuses heavily on Donna’s past but it definitely would have come in handy here since the melodrama and campiness from the premise felt hollow because of the lack of character development and the story constantly being interrupted by the next musical number.
The musical numbers were the best part of the film, they almost had to be considering the soundtrack they fell back on. These sequences were well shot, capturing all the action from big, over the top sequences to small and more intimate numbers. The production values were there, from the set pieces, to the costumes, to the extras, and the choreography. They were fun to watch for the most part and full of personality but there are just certain members of the cast who can neither sing nor dance (I’m looking at you Brosnan) meanwhile there are others who can sing and dance (Meryl Streep can do no wrong) so they kind of balance each other out.
Singing and dancing aside, the performances were good across the board. Streep was captivating to watch as Donna while bringing plenty of energy and fearlessness by throwing herself head first into the proceedings. Seyfried was good and was believable as Donna’s daughter Sophie and had chemistry with Streep, making us care about them in the criminally short screen time they had together. Brosnan, Skarsgård, and Firth were okay as Sam, Bill, and Harry respectively but the lack of character development made their characters more on the stale side.
Overall, this was a decently fun musical that was definitely not lacking in spectacle but couldn’t quite put the whole package together, balancing between its thin story and great musical numbers. Fans of musicals and ABBA should find plenty of enjoy here while some will be unable to suspend their belief due to the campiness.