I was quite unimpressed when I first saw Mamma Mia! I wasn't exactly the target audience for it, I didn't think the songs were always as well worked into the plot as they could have been, and I found the antics of Meryl Streep and her friends just a little bit cringe-inducing. But it still sits on my shelf, surrounded by many better (and a few worse) movies. Why? Because it was one of the free blu rays that came with my first player, and I rarely throw out a film, especially a freebie.
You can already surmise that I wasn't keen to rush out and see the sequel, but see the sequel I did. I am a married man and that can mean compromising sometimes. My wife was going to join me for the latest Mission: Impossible movie so I could put a brave face on and accompany her to this movie. I did my duty.
The plot this time around sees Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) getting ready to open the hotel that she wants to make a success in honour of her deceased mother, Donna (Meryl Streep). Viewers also get to see the early years of Donna (played by Lily James) and how exactly she got herself in the predicament that eventually led to the events of the first film. There are some new faces, mainly in the scenes showing the younger incarnations of the men and women we already got to know as adults, another mix of ABBA hits, of course, and plenty of sea, sunshine, and sanitised -or-family-viewing sexual shenanigans.
Here's what happened when I watched Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. I had quite a good time. Not only that, I realised that I had been a BIT harsh in my judgement of the first film. I didn't enjoy it when I sat there, watching it in the comfort of my own home, even if I could singalong to the ABBA tunes. But that situation wasn't the best way to view it. It's a shared experience. It's fun for everyone, and the sequel aims for exactly the same end result.
And it achieves it. The songs may be, for the most part, lesser choices but the laughs are more frequent, and simply better. Which makes this a slight improvement over the original. That wasn't clear from the beginning. The first 15 minutes or so had me rolling my eyes on a number of occasions, thanks to the sentimental moments and the poor musical number that feels shoehorned in to the first scenes featuring Lily James (as well as Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, playing her friends). James is good in her role, but things start to pick up when Julie Walters and Christine Baranski come onscreen, and then it's all a surprisingly consistent crowdpleaser as we move back and forth between the past and the present, with lots more fun coming from Hugh Skinner/Colin Firth, Josh Dylan/Stellan Skarsgard, and Jeremy Irvine/Pierce Brosnan. Andy Garcia is also very good, Omid Djalili steals his all-too-brief scenes, and Cher takes the baton from Djalili and almost walks off with the entire film.
Writer-director Ol Parker, helped by Richard Curtis and Catherine Johnson, shows that he knows exactly what the audience wants, and he builds everything to a completely predictable and enjoyable finale that will have even the most cynical viewers grinning. I'm not completely converted, not quite yet, but I WILL rewatch the first film at some point, and I may even let my wife persuade me to endure/enjoy a double-bill one day in the future.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a film that it is easy to turn your nose up at. It is a safe viewing choice, one or two risque lines of dialogue aside, and it suffers from an overabundance of sweetness in almost every character. It will also have you leaving the cinema with a big smile on your face, despite how hard you might fight against it.
This is the shiny disc version.
Americans can get it here.