Director: Ol Parker
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Lily James, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Andy Garcia, Cher
RunTime: 1 hr 54 mins
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://www.mammamiamovie.com
Opening Day: 9 August 2018
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. Reprising their roles from Mamma Mia! The Movie are Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep as Donna, Julie Walters as Rosie and Christine Baranski as Tanya. Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper reunite as Sophie and Sky, while Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård and Oscar® winner Colin Firth return to play Sophie’s three possible dads: Sam, Bill and Harry.
As the film goes back and forth in time to show how relationships forged in the past resonate in the present, James will play the role of Young Donna. Filling the roles of Young Rosie and Young Tanya are Alexa Davies (A Brilliant Young Mind) and Jessica Keenan Wynn (Broadway’s Beautiful). Young Sam will be played by Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), while Young Bill is Josh Dylan (Allied) and Young Harry is Hugh Skinner (Kill Your Friends).
Here we go again indeed – a decade after the film adaptation of the hit Broadway jukebox musical, the cast have reunited for a sequel that is as much about what happens after as it is about what happened before. But first things first, you should know that Meryl Streep is barely in this movie, and when we say barely, we mean that she only appears in the last ten minutes. Indeed, the movie begins with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) preparing to reopen her mom’s old hotel on the Greek island of Kalokairi a year after Donna has died, and it isn’t until right at the end that Streep makes a glorified cameo in a dream vision singing ‘My Love, My Life’ with Seyfried. But before we get there, Sophie will have to deal with a couple of hiccups in the runup to the grand opening, none of which cannot be resolved with some good ol’ ABBA tunes and a generous dose of sunny optimism.
If that made you scoff, then clearly this isn’t the movie for you. More so than its 2008 predecessor, how much you enjoy this follow-up really depends on how much you truly love ABBA. For one, this film lacks the star power of the original’s veteran ensemble; not only do her fellow dynamos Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) seem lost without Donna as their lead, her intriguing ex-lovers Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Harry (Colin Firth) seem just as disillusioned, what with Bill somewhere in Sweden and Harry somewhere in Japan running their respective businesses. For another, given that the band’s best material had already been used up in the previous movie, most of the songs here are either second-tier items (like ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’) or repeaters from the first film, so you’ll really have to be a fan to lap up their back catalogue of lesser numbers.
Without the benefit of prior source material, writer-director Ol Parker has opted to split his movie between Sophie’s hostelry crises with young Donna’s fateful flings in the golden summer of 1979 that would lead to the love quadrangle in the first film. As played by Lily James, the free-spirited Donna sets out on a European tour upon her college graduation and finds herself romancing the awkward virgin Harry (Hugh Skinner), sailor boy Bill (Josh Dylan) and charming hero Sam (Jeremy Irvine) in turn. It is no surprise that Donna will find herself pregnant by the end of that summer, her daughter none other than Sophie, and in interspersing scenes from Donna’s past and Sophie’s present, Parker hopes to say some genuinely touching things about the special bond between mother and daughter.
Thanks to Streep and Seyfried, the closing sequence – and the only one in the entire movie, mind you – that reunites them is handled with weight and resonance; but equally, it does seem as if the rest of the movie is struggling to find that same sense of purpose. The frequent transitions between the two stories only makes that fact more stark, seeing as how the juxtapositions across time (for example, young Donna arriving at the dilapidated hotel next to Sophie showing off the same refurbished hotel) are in of themselves rather meaningless. In flitting back and forth in time, there is also little space to give much depth to the sub-narratives within each storyline: the marital troubles between Sophie and her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) are expressed through the song ‘One Of Us’ and then magically resolved near the finale; ditto for Bill and Harry’s absence right up till the day of the hotel’s re-opening itself, when both have a sudden crisis of conscience and decide to turn up at the same time.
To be sure, its predecessor also had a flimsy excuse of a narrative to trot out a whole bunch of ABBA’s greatest hits, but without that same raison d'être, it’s a lot harder to look past this sequel’s shortcomings. The pleasures here are few and largely ephemeral. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography brings verve to some of the song-and-dance numbers – including young Donna and Harry’s duet in a French restaurant to ‘Waterloo’; young Donna, Tanya and Rosie’s performance of the titular song at the village bar; and last but not least the reunion of the entire cast and hundreds of other people in and around the Mediterranean to ‘Dancing Queen’. True to her diva-like quality, Cher makes her appearance late into the film, but makes it memorable with her rendition of ‘Fernando’ alongside Andy Garcia complete with fireworks going off almost in slow-motion.
Like we said, how much you’ll enjoy this second go-around at ‘Mamma Mia!’ depends on how big of a fan you are of ABBA and their brand of infectious ‘70s and ‘80s Europop tunes. Although there are a couple of chart-toppers, more than half of the songs here come from their B-side, so casual fans should also be prepared that you may not find yourself singing along as much. You should know too that Streep is hardly present in the film at all, and her absence is deeply felt and sorely missed. Frankly, we can’t say we enjoyed this second helping of ‘Mamma Mia!’ much, not least because it lacks the infectious energy and hearty spirit which made the original such a guilty pleasure. But if you’re inclined to go again, you’ll do well to make sure that you’re in an appropriately nostalgic mood for these two hours of kitsch, camp and cheese.
(Ask youself how much of an ABBA fan you are, and that will probably tell you whether you'll go 'here we go again!' or 'here we go again!?')
Review by Gabriel Chong