Considering its $615 million worldwide box office haul, it’s no surprise Mamma Mia! got a sequel. What is surprising is why it took so long. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again takes places 10 years after the original, which confused me because I didn’t realize it came out so long ago. Ol Parker may be a better suited director, but Here We Go Again is an interesting mixed bag. While it may be dumber than the original, it’s definitely better. The original has been playing on TV this week and after watching the last 30 minutes, it’s very clear that the best decision made was focusing on Donna’s (played by both Meryl Streep and Lily James) backstory and letting the youngsters have some fun this time.
Donna is dead and to celebrate her life, her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has rebuilt the Hotel Bella Donna. Sophie still isn’t married to Sky (Dominic Cooper). Thankfully for Sophie, Sam (Pierce Brosnan) is hanging around to help, along with her trusty manager Fernando (Andy Garcia). Invited to join in the celebration are Donna’s best friends Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), and her two other “dads” Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard). With a storm encroaching, they wax nostalgic as we’re whisked back to 1979 to meet Young Donna (James) as she makes her way to Greece after graduating from Oxford. Meanwhile, we also see the development of Donna and the Dynamos and how Young Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Young Harry (Hugh Skinner), and Young Bill (Josh Dylan) came to possibly be Sophie’s father, dot dot dot.
Writer/director Parker offers a fun time to the audience, which is all they’ll want. You could nickname this Earworm: The Extravaganza! The target audience for Here We Go Again won’t care how dopey it is. Like Cooper longingly pouring himself a cup of tea during “One of Us,” or James performing slo-mo cartwheels through a field before trying to pick an orange that’s too high and falls on her bum while oranges drop all around her. Then spotting a goat spying at her through the fence which chases her down a trail after she makes a face at it. Luckily, the film never gets bogged down in histrionics. Anytime something even remotely dramatic happens there’s another musical number and the characters get over it.
But we all know everyone is coming for the music. Hopefully, not Streep. Spoiler alert: she’s only in the very last scene and the closing credits number. The young cast fare very well, even if James looks nothing like a young Streep — although, this is the star-making turn she’s been looking for — Keenan Wynn barely registers as a young Baranski, and Davies at least gets a few good laughs. The trio of young men are also an odd bag considering none of them sound like their mature counterparts. And then there’s Cher. She may look like she’s stretched smoother than a porcelain doll — and has the same amount of mobility — but she still commands the screen. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again isn’t the best film ever made, but that’s not what it’s here for. It offers a fun — if dumb — time at the movies and sometimes that’s good enough.