If you would like to ready my review of the original Mamma Mia, click here.
Synopsis: Get ready to sing and dance, laugh and love all over again. Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie grossed more than $600 million around the world, you are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, and Pierce Brosnan
Writer: Ol Parker
Director: Ol Parker
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 114mins
While it looked like the first film was enough, this new film does exactly what its subtitle suggests, “Here We Go Again”. Whether or not it will have the same impact, 10 years later, remains to be seen though at least this sequel is already a major improvement over the original in almost every way. The spectacle is still here, however, the story is also an improvement over the original. The original film hinted at Donna’s (Meryl Streep) backstory, leading to her relationships with Sam (Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), and Harry (Colin Firth) respectively but now we actually get to see how it came to be (which was something the first film needed) from the perspective of their younger counterparts (James, Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, and Hugh Skinner respectively).
The story juxtaposed that of young Donna along with that of her daughter Sophie (Seyfried) as a young Donna went out to try and find herself leading to her becoming pregnant with Sophie and acquiring her Greek hotel and a pregnant and overwhelmed Sophie trying to rebuild her mother’s hotel after her unfortunate death. Over the course of the film, the story would cut between each of their subplots in a way that complimented each other. Each of their paths were fairly similar but each fit together nicely with Sophie finding inspiration from her mother’s story to help her get through her struggles. There was still plenty of melodrama, however, the young Donna subplot was the better of the two since she was so fun to watch because of her youthful exuberance and her infectious personality.
There were arguably less, mostly over the top, musical numbers in this film but this film found a better balance between the musical elements and the story. The best musicals always seem to get it right and this film’s musical numbers felt much more organic. Of course the same production values were still there and they featured some new ABBA songs this time around while some other greats returned. They were just as fun to watch as the original and luckily there were a few more people that could sing and dance this time around (James and the other younger counterparts stood out above the others) than those who can’t (I’m still looking at you Brosnan but you didn’t sing nearly as much this time around).
The musical numbers were great, however, they were not the best part of the film, that distinction belongs to James as the younger version of Donna. James can surprisingly sing and singlehandedly carries the film with her effortless charisma and was so compelling to watch that the film could have just been about her and it would have been better. Though the split between her and Seyfried’s Sophie was perhaps skewed slightly towards Sophie, she did the best with the time she had. With Streep gone (no spoilers), Seyfried excelled in an expanded role but could not get out from under Streep’s shadow. Cher was just being Cher as Sophie’s grandmother and Donna’s mother Ruby (a little weird considering the narrow age gap between her and Streep) and commanded the screen in her limited screen time. The supporting cast was still solid all around.
Overall, this was a great musical sequel that improves over the original in just about every way by maintaining the same sense of spectacle and production values and finds a better balance with a more compelling story led by the magnetic Lily James. Suffice it to say, fans of musicals and/or ABBA and/or the original will still find plenty to love here as long as you can suspend belief and let the spectacle take over.