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Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Directed by: Ol Parker

Premise: Five years after the events of the 2008 film, Donna (Meryl Streep) has died and her daughter (Amanda Seyfried) oversees the grand reopening of their island hotel. The story spits between preparations for the party and flashbacks to young Donna (Lily James) first arriving on Kalokairi Island.

What Works: Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical. Driven by the disco music of Abba, this story was always intended to be a lighthearted, feel good show. The sequel continues that quality and it delivers more of what audiences enjoyed in the 2008 picture. Here We Go Again revisits Kalokairi to catch up with the characters and most of the core cast return. The Mamma Mia! sequel alternates between the past and present. Sophie, again played by Amanda Seyfried, plans a reopening party for the island hotel while the story skips backward to the young Donna, played by Lily James, discovering the island and encountering the young Harry, Bill, and Sam, played by Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine, respectively. The cast is great. The young actors are matched perfectly with their older counterparts and they pick up on the details of the elder performances. That’s especially true of Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn who are cast as younger versions of Donna’s friends, played in the present tense by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. The younger and older pairs provide a lot of comic relief. Lily James is particularly good in the lead as the young Donna. She is full of carefree energy and in her we can see the character played by Meryl Streep in the original film. James is a skilled singer and the filmmakers smartly give her most of the lead vocals in the picture. As a musical, Here We Go Again is considerably better than its predecessor. True to its name, Here We Go Again continues to use the music of Abba and works the songs into the story in a way that feels organic and relevant to the action. The scope is bigger, the choreography is better, and the singing is considerably improved.

What Doesn’t: The original Mamma Mia! did not suggest a sequel. That film was a self-contained story that resolved all the relevant issues. This is quite apparent in the follow up. The filmmakers never come up with anything dramatically compelling and the story is thin. Here We Go Again is mostly an excuse to string together a series of musical numbers and the movie does that well. But unlike the first film, which worked out family conflicts and relevant questions about identity in between songs, the Mamma Mia! sequel has no drama and virtually no stakes. That’s especially evident in the present tense storyline of Sophie preparing for a party. But the past tense storyline of Donna arriving at the island doesn’t fulfill the requirements of a prequel. It dramatizes the expository information from the first film but it doesn’t change or deepen our understanding of the original story and its characters. It just revisits what we already knew.

DVD extras: Deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, featurettes, interviews, commentary tracks.

Bottom Line: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is intended to be light entertainment and the movie succeeds at that. The filmmakers may not have come up with much of a story but they know their audience and fans of the 2008 picture will enjoy this.

Episode: #725 (November 10, 2018)