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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Movie Review

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) movie poster Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Theatrical Release: July 20, 2018 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ol Parker / Writers: Ol Parker (story & screenplay), Catherine Johnson (story & original musical), Richard Curtis (story), Judy Craymer (concept)

Cast: Christine Baranski (Tanya Chesham-Leigh), Pierce Brosnan (Sam Carmichael), Dominic Cooper (Sky), Colin Firth (Harry Bright), Andy Garcia (Fernando Cienfuegos), Lily James (Young Donna), Amanda Seyfried (Sophie), Stellan Skarsgård (Bill Anderson, Kurt Anderson), Julie Walters (Rosie Mulligan), Cher (Ruby Sheridan), Meryl Streep (Donna Sheridan), Jeremy Irvine (Young Sam Carmichael), Josh Dylan (Young Bill Anderson), Hugh Skinner (Young Harry Bright), Alexa Davies (Young Rosie), Jessica Keenan Wynn (Young Tanya), Jonathan Goldsmith (Brother Cienfuegos)

Songs: "Thank You for the Music", "When I Kissed the Teacher", "One of Us", "Waterloo", "S.O.S.", "Why Did It Have to Be Me?", "I Have a Dream", "Kisses of Fire", "Andante, Andante", "The Name of the Game", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", "Mamma Mia", "Angeleyes", "Dancing Queen", "Hasta Mañana", "Hole in Your Soul", "I've Been Waiting for You", "Fernando", "My Love, My Life", "Super Trouper"


Whether it is modeling itself after what is widely considered the greatest sequel of all time in The Godfather Part II or simply compensating for Meryl Streep's apparent unwillingness to appear at length, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again opts for a dual-chronology of parallel generational narratives.

In scenic present-day Greece, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is prepared to realize her mother's dream and reopen the lovingly restored and newly renamed hotel Bella Donna. The grand opening is to be attended by one of Sophie's three possible fathers,
Sam (Pierce Brosnan), and two of her mother's close friends and former bandmates in Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters). Despite prominent placement on the poster, Donna herself (Streep) is dead and lamented with photographs and wistful memories.

But before we can delve too far into that, we journey back to 1979, where young Donna (Lily James) and her future bandmates the Dynamos (Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies) are graduating from Oxford University. Called up to deliver a valediction, Donna breaks into a flashy performance of "When I Kissed the Teacher" that turns the austere ceremony upside down.

That's less surprising than it might be because "Teacher" is an ABBA song and this is the sequel to the 2008 blockbuster adapted from the popular and long-running jukebox musical of the same name.

Sky (Dominic Cooper) surprises Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) by showing up in Greece for the grand opening of the hotel Bella Donna.

Both the film and the stage version it adapted used the songs of the Swedish pop group that thrived in the 1970s and '80s to tell the story of a young woman trying to determine her father from three of her mother's overlapping loves who have all been invited to her wedding. Whereas that one used Donna's diary to reconstruct the past, this sequel, scripted and directed by The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel scribe Ol Parker, simply recreates it extensively with flashbacks.

Shortly after graduating from college, Donna meets a nervous virginal Brit (Hugh Skinner), a smooth-talking Swedish boat owner (Josh Dylan), and an Irishman (War Horse's Jeremy Irvine) harboring a secret. If you know the original (and if you're reading this review, I'm guessing you do), then you already know that this is destined to play out like a romantic quadrangle in which all three guys get the girl, albeit briefly. Of course, this already partly known narrative and the more depressing, original present-day one are both spiced up with more ABBA songs, a mix of reprises of the biggest hits (including "I Have a Dream", "Waterloo", "Dancing Queen", and the titular tune) and some deeper cuts that had no place in the original musical (including Alan Partridge fave "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "Fernando").

Three of the characters who seem to be excused from the proceedings -- Sophie's husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) and other potential dads (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) -- do eventually make it to the island, where the visuals pop with every shade of blue until a freak storm threatens to ruin the hotel's opening.

Lily James takes over the role of Donna, portraying Meryl Streep's character as a new Oxford University graduate in 1979.

Recognizing their value in this genre, Here We Go Again seems to transparently target the demographics of older women and gay men by casting Cher,
who for the record is three years older than Streep, as Sophie's grandmother, who crashes the hotel opening in style and naturally performs some numbers with the limited facial mobility that the hallowed songstress has opted for.

Rendering the one-sheet only spectacularly misleading and not prosecutably false advertising, Streep does show up in one of the film's closing scenes to duet with her daughter in invisible ghost form. The record-setting Oscar nominated actress also returns for "Super Trouper", the end credits' extremely flamboyant finale which brings the entire cast together and hopes to have at least some of the target audience leaving with smiles on their face.

Here We Go Again!, which also assigns story credits to original playwright Catherine Johnson and Brit romcom veteran Richard Curtis (Love Actually and the Bridget Jones series), is a bad movie and one which you might be surprised to find following up the widely liked and globally well-attended original film ten years later. The film does count Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson among its producers and they evidently did not learn anything from their last untimely Grecian romantic comedy sequel to a blockbuster. It seems very likely that this second Mamma Mia! follows My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 down the path to commercial disappointment (and with a reported $75 million budget, there's not much room for error).

Like that delayed return to the well, this uninspired sequel seems to deserve such a fate. Its failings are not the fault of leading ladies Seyfried and James, who both give solid efforts and make a case for more leading roles in better fare. They're not the fault of Brosnan, who hasn't honed his singing talents at all but only croons a few lines, or Firth and Skarsgård, who come closest to supplying the only chuckles. Blame Parker, Universal, and all who decided to move forward with this and simply persuade Streep to make a brief appearance instead of just deciding there wasn't really a legitimate sequel to be made without her.

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Reviewed July 19, 2018.

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