You have to hand it to them, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a pretty perfect title for what some may deem an unnecessary follow-up to 2008’s ABBA medley musical. This time, instead of carrying the plot forward, the film focuses on delving deeper into Donna’s (Meryl Streep) past by exploring that fateful summer where she met the three men that would become the three potential fathers of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Meanwhile, Sophia has rebuilt her mother’s dream into the Bella Donna Hotel, and is anxious about launching the hotel, particularly while she’s in a rough patch with her husband Skye (Dominic Cooper), in New York City to learn the hotel business.
It’s a smart move to focus on Young Donna, as it gives the film an excuse to cast younger versions of the originals. In this case, Lily James plays a young Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irvine plays a young Pierce Brosnan, Josh Dylan plays a young Stellan Skarsgard, and Hugh Skinner plays a young Colin Firth. Lily James shines as the bubbly and adventurous Donna, surrounded by her best friends, the Dynamos - here played by Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies. The trio of young men are just handsome and charming enough to pull off Donna’s whirlwind summer of boys, each one getting a chance to sing and dance alongside Donna.
But in the end, no one’s watching this film for the plot. We’re here for the singing and the dancing. Since most of ABBA’s hits were crossed off the list during Mamma Mia!, the sequel has to make due with some of ABBA’s less known hits, slower songs, and only a couple of times repeats songs from the first film. It works in varying degrees, giving the film more somber moments, while wisely reusing some of the best songs from the first one to tie the two films together.
In expanding to a sequel, we have to leave the magical (and fictional) island of Kalokairi, which takes away some of the magic of the songs. In the first film, breaking out into song and dance felt natural on this special island away from it all. But breaking out in song at a college graduation? Or in a Parisian restaurant? Sure, it works, but it just doesn’t quite have the same effect.
That said, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is everything you want from a musical’s sequel. Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters are back, still as funny as ever and game to joke about how old they are. The old man dancing is in wonderful, hilarious form in this one. Outside the younger generation, we get new additions to the cast like hotel manager Andy Garcia, whose first name is not revealed until late into the film, a moment that coincides nicely with the entrance of Cher as Sophie’s grandmother. And yes, Cher and Meryl Streep are three years apart and were cast as mother-daughter. Don’t think too hard about it and just enjoy Cher singing ABBA songs.
At a time when the news can be a never-ending parade of sadness and anger, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is here to whisk you away to a beautiful island filled with beautiful people singing, dancing, and wearing sparkly disco outfits. You’ll never want to leave.