How can I resist ya?
Musicals can be hit or miss in Hollywood. Not all translate well to film, especially if they were originally intended for the stage instead of the silver screen. This still didn’t stop Hollywood from cashing in back in 2008 on “Mamma Mia!”, based on the 1999 Broadway jukebox musical of the same name featuring the music of the pop disco group ABBA. Despite opening against “The Dark Knight”, “Mamma Mia!” enjoyed a long run at the box office with a final tally of over $600 million worldwide, leading to Universal to kick the tires on the possibility of a sequel. Nearly a decade to the date of the release to the first film, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” finds itself dancing into theaters, but with the tepid reaction to the first film, there was a question as to whether or not audiences would be able to resist the film.
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” sees Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) prepping for the grand reopening of her mother’s, Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep), hotel. With Sophie and her three fathers, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) all scrambling to ensure the re-opening is a success, Sophie thinks back to how her young version of Donna (Lilly James), met the younger versions of her fathers, while a surprise arrival of Sophie’s grandmother Ruby (Cher) could potentially ruin the re-opening.
As a person who despises ABBA and recalls how enraged he became when “Dancing Queen” came on the bar loudspeakers during his final senior stumble in college, one would think “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” would be an absolute headache to sit through. Throw in the fact the first “Mamma Mia!” is a bit of a mess and one of my least favorite actresses in Meryl Streep of all time in the mix, and you’re bound to have a disaster on your hands, right? Shockingly, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” doubles down on the musical numbers that made the first film so popular by playing ABBA’s B-side tracks with a sprinkle of their smash hits, and the result is actually one of the better Hollywood film musicals since “La La Land”.
One aspect of the film that helps it rise above the original is the story. The backstory of young Donna and how she came to court her younger version of her lovers and how she ended up in Greece is quite charming, filled with witty dialogue and well staged musical numbers. Also bolstering these scenes are Lilly James, who makes a star making turn as the young Donna. James’ willingness to go all out during the musical numbers is a sight to behold, and her usual acting abilities are on full display as well as it pertains to her interactions with her three suitors, making her a dual threat actress to watch for years to come. While her younger male counterparts suffer the same fate as the older ones experienced in the first film where it is painfully obvious they’re here for looks rather than pipes (save for the younger Sam, played by Jeremy Irvine), they show decent enough acting chops to warrant future castings in other films.
Sure, there are times where the present day story of Sophie and the reopening reaches paint by numbers status, but Seyfried’s singing abilities and the dynamic between Donna’s old friends manages to carry the film. While Sophie’s fathers once again cannot sing a note, the trio of Brosnan, Firth, and Skarsgård are definitely having a blast making a fool of themselves to the songs of ABBA. Even though her time onscreen is reduced to more of a cameo, even Cher is able to leave and impression with her rendition of one of ABBA’s most notable songs, and who would’ve ever though she and Andy García would ever share screen time together?
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is the most pleasant surprise of the summer. For those of you who despise musicals, romantic comedies, and ABBA, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” will makes you question whether there is truly a benevolent god. But with its surprisingly good dialogue, solid backstory, and well staged musical numbers, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” may have you feel that you can dance, you can jive, all whilst having the time of your life and become the dancing queen.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. Pay matinée price.
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” stars Amanda Seyfried, Lilly James, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Andy García, Dominic Cooper, Christine Baranski, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Julia Walters, Alexa Davies, and Cher. It is in theaters now.