Skip to main content

"Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again" is a Fun Musical and Showcase for the Wonderful Lily James: Review

See the source image

Film Review: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is the sequel to the 2008 film Mamma Mia, which was based on the stage musical of the same name, which itself was based on the songs of ABBA. If it seems like some of the fun would be lost with each additional iteration,  Here We Go Again proves otherwise. As unnecessary as it may be, the sequel is an exceptionally fun time at the movies.

Following the Godfather Part II template, Here We Go Again is actually half-sequel, half-prequel, with a continuation of the first movie's plot interwoven with flashbacks depicting how Donna met each of her daughter's potential fathers and how she came to inexplicably live on a gorgeous Greek island, which was set up in the first film. Being the second musical to exclusively feature the music of ABBA, Here We Go Again faces the inevitable challenge of the first movie having done nearly all of the Swedish group's best and most well-known songs. A number of them are trotted out again ("Dancing Queen", "Super Trouper", and the title song included), while some of the other songs are strenuously shoehorned into the plot (like "Waterloo", "When I Kissed the Teacher", and "Fernando"). For those numbers, it almost becomes necessary to enjoy them for their spirit, detached from the lyrics. Thankfully, the infectious pop spirit of the music carries over into the bright, colorful, and occasionally sentimental film.

Although the cast boasts names such as Meryl Streep and Cher, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again belongs squarely to Lily James. The former Downton Abbey-actress plays the younger version of Streep's character in flashbacks and delivers comfortably the best performance in either Mamma Mia movie. She attacks the role with full-throated gusto and never loses sight of the character amid the chaotic singing and dancing - which is no easy task considering in her very first scene she's asked to sing "When I Kissed the Teacher" as her valedictorian speech (!). James's assured, effervescent performance gives the audience reason to care about Young Donna even when the script forgets to. Hollow overtures are made toward character development in the third act, but the Young Donna's arc ultimately amounts to what would be a 'just for fun' subplot in any other movie. But James sells the familiar rom-com antics with the ease and charisma of a natural-born star. It's only a matter of time before she becomes one of the biggest movie stars in the world. 

The present-day stuff on the island is given even less of a functional plot thread than the flashbacks. It's sort of about Sophie re-opening her mother's house as a hotel, sort of about a rough patch in Sophie and Skye's marriage, but not really about either. Not that a Mamma Mia film requires much of a plot, as all scenes and characters are merely vessels to deliver ABBA tunes set to elaborate production numbers. And the numbers are great this time around, even if the approach is much different from Phyllida Lloyd's stagy, wonderfully nonsensical original. Ol Parker, the screenwriter and director of Here We Go Again, opts for a more grounded, mainstream style. The effect is that the musical numbers look like they could be music videos in the way are shot and edited, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, average moviegoers will probably prefer it to the way the dancing in the original looked as if it could have been lifted directly from the stage.

Amanda Seyfried's career is in an arguably worse state now than it was in 2008, which is a shame because I love her singular screen presence. Seeing how Seyfried's Sophie has subtly matured in the ten years since the original is one of the highlights of the movie. The supporting cast, comprised of Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Bronson, Stellan Skarsgard, and Colin Firth play their characters with just the right amount of archness. The filmmakers make you wait for Meryl, but it's worth it, as she proves once again how much she can do with little screen time. Cher isn't called upon to use her acting chops (don't forget that in the '80s she won Best Actress prizes at both the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival), but rather to show up late in the proceedings to deliver a couple of razor-sharp lines and sing "Fernando" with Andy Garcia. I'm not sure what the point was, but asking what's the point is beside the point in a movie like this. It's fun. Just enjoy it. 

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is in theaters July 20th. 

Have thoughts on Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again? Leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Drew Barrymore is Getting a Daytime Talk Show. Here's Why I Hate It

When Hollywood stopped making big screen romantic comedies after the '00s, there was an entire group of actresses who were forced to pivot their careers to something else. Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, Reese, and Drew Barrymore were all members of this group. Today's news that Drew Barrymore's daytime talk show has been picked up and will premiere in fall 2020 has got me thinking about the career choices these actresses have made since the death of their genre. Reese moved into prestige vehicles on the big screen and mainly on the small screen these days. Sandra Bullock appears in far fewer movies than she did fifteen years ago, but when she does pop up it's mostly in prestige fare. Cameron Diaz retired from acting entirely. Kate Hudson, well I already wrote a thing about what Kate Hudson did. Nearly all of these women have started lifestyle brands or companies, following in the footsteps of the Empress of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands, Gwyn…

Timmys 2019: The 9th Annual Timmy Television Awards

THE 9TH ANNUAL TIMMYS TELEVISION AWARDSThe Timmys annually honor the best in television from the past season. Here are the nominees from the 2018-19 television season (winners are in bold):

Best Comedy Series:
Dead to Me (Netflix)Schitt's Creek (POP)Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)The Kids Are Alright (ABC)Fleabag (Amazon Prime)Best Drama Series: Killing Eve (BBC America)Succession (HBO)This Is Us (NBC)Homecoming (Amazon Prime)Good Girls (NBC)Best Actress in a Comedy Series: Phoebe Waller-Bridge - FleabagChristina Applegate - Dead to MeLinda Cardellini - Dead to MeDrew Barrymore - Santa Clarita DietCatherine O'Hara - Schitt's CreekCatherine Zeta Jones - Queen America
Best Actor in a Comedy Series: Timothy Olyphant - Santa Clarita DietMichael Douglas - The Kominsky MethodEugene Levy - Schitt's CreekTed Danson - The Good PlaceWilliam H. Macy - ShamelessBest Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Alex Borstein - The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselOlivia Colman - FleabagLaurie Metcalf - The Co…

Drew Barrymore Takes A Bite Out of Suburbia in the Hilariously Dark "Santa Clarita Diet": Review

Santa Clarita Diet: TV Review

The less you know about the premise of the new Netflix comedy Santa Clarita Diet before you watch it, the better. You'll get a pretty good indication of whether you're going to like or not in the first fifteen minutes. Without revealing too much, Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant play Sheila and Joel Hammond, married suburban realtors whose lives are irrevocably changed after Sheila develops an appetite for human flesh.