Dan's Review: "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" reaches a little too far
Jul 21, 2018 01:42PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Alexa Davies, Lily James, and Jessica Keenan Wynn in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again- © 2018 Universal.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal)
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material.
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Jessica Keenan, Julie Walters, Alexa Davies, Pierce Brosnan, Jeremy Irvine, Colin Firth, Hugh Skinner, Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Dylan, Cher, Dominic Cooper, Andy García, Omid Djalili, Celia Imrie, Naoko Mori, Togo Igawa, Maria Vacratsis, Panos Mouzourakis, Gerard Monaco, Anna Antoniades, Jonathan Goldsmith, Björn Ulvaeus, enny Andersson.
Written by Ol Parker, Catherine Johnson and Richard Curtis, based on the Broadway Musical by Catherine Johnson and the songs of ABBA.
Directed by Ol Parker.
Most times when I hear about a planned sequel to a beloved film, I have one general reaction: Why mess with a good thing? I feel that way about nearly all of the live-action remakes of classic Disney cartoons, especially last year’s Beauty and the Beast do-over. Thinking back to 2008’s release of Mamma Mia!, a film adaptation of the Broadway musical based on the songs of ABBA, I never dreamed a sequel would happen, yet here were are with this weekend’s release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Let’s dispense with a fairly big spoiler because it crops up in the first scenes of the movie.
The main character of Donna Sheridan, played by Meryl Streep in the original is dead. We don’t know how she dies, but the main premise of the movie is Donna’s daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) trying to reopen her mother’s Grecian island hotel in her honor. The rest of the film centers around two themes: A prequel of events that led the young Donna (played by Lily James) to the Island and three young lovers who could be Sophie’s dad (Sam, played by the older Pierce Brosnan and the younger Jeremy Irvine. Harry, played by the older Colin Firth and the younger Hugh Skinner. Bill, played by the elder Stellan Skarsgård and younger Josh Dylan). Donna’s young friends (Tanya and Rosie) are played by the older Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, while their younger counterparts are played by Jessica Keenan and Alexa Davies. Donna’s young exploits take her from Oxford to Paris to Greece where she meets and falls in love with all three young men at different times, leading up to the pregnancy that produced Sophie. Meanwhile, in contemporary times, Sophie is having relationship troubles with Sky (Dominic Cooper) and a nasty storm that ruins the hotel’s grand reopening. Her three dads come to the rescue, and a big party with all kinds of ABBA songs ensues. Also tagging along is Sophie’s grandmother Ruby Sheridan (Cher), whose entrance to the party is treated with all kinds of flamboyance since she’s been mostly absent as Donna’s mom (up to this point) because she’s some kind of famous singer (big stretch, I know). Ruby also has some convenient relationship issues to deal with involving a man with a thick Spanish accent (Gee, I wonder what his first name is?). Sophie also has a new secret to share that will bring back the spirit of her mother (Don’t worry, Meryl makes an appearance from the grave), and everyone has a big glam party with ABBA’s songs blasting through the Grecian night.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is fun and has some great musical/dance production sequences we saw in the first movie. The main problem is that all the best ABBA songs were already used in the first movie, leaving producers with two choices: Re-use the same songs from the first movie – or - use some of ABBA’s more obscure ones. Well, guess what? They opted for both, and we hear a lot of songs no one (other than die-hard ABBA fans) have heard AND a few retreads (“Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia” to name a few).
Look, if you love ABBA that much then Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is right up your alley. If not, then it might seem a little strange and unnecessary. I also have a few issues with finding sympathy for the main characters, most of whom have shown little redeeming qualities thus far (a rich, famous absentee mother/grandmother who shows up to take all the glory, unfaithful promiscuity – not to mention a lot of overdependence on the kindness of strangers).
And then there’s Cher, who’s supposed to be some sort of cover for not having Meryl Streep in most of the movie as if the entire story was a set up for her entrance. Her age doesn’t match well with Streep either (Cher is 72, Streep 69), and her movements in the big production numbers seem super calculated, as if producers had to pay an extra $1 million for any kick over three inches high.
I think the ABBA well is dry, and I hope this is the last Mamma Mia! we get.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Trailer