Much like the original film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is frivolous fun, providing a welcomed distraction from the everyday grind of the real world. The movie is at its best when it lets the music – originally made famous by ABBA, the 1970s Swedish pop band—take center stage. Starring too many A-list celebrities to name, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again leverages its star power to help distract from the movie’s greatest pitfall—a story that’s not all compelling. Fortunately, its catchy songs and charming cast are enough for me to forgive its slapped together plot.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! jumps back and forth between present day and the late 1970s. In the present day, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is gearing up for the grand reopening of Hotel Bella Donna—named after her mother (Meryl Streep). With the help of Sam, Dad #1 (Pierce Brosnan) and Fernando, the hotel manager (Andy Garcia), Sophie hopes to cement her mother’s legacy by rehabilitating the hotel her mother loved so much. Flashbacks document Donna’s pilgrimage to Kalokairi, the Greek Island she would eventually call home, as well as her trysts with Sophie’s fathers played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård. Parallels between Sophie and her mother are established throughout the movie and culminate in the mother-daughter sharing a sacred moment.
At first, I wanted to believe the flashbacks were purposeful. I convinced myself that they made the story richer, more meaningful. I was wrong. Their sole purpose is to justify to the audience the need for this sequel. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the flashbacks more than the present day scenes. I just wish the flashbacks and present-day scenes could’ve aligned better from an emotional point of view.
Story aside, I really enjoyed the cast and their spin on songs from ABBA’s memorable catalog. Lily James, who plays young Donna, is the kind of actress that legitimately lights up the screen. When she smiles, you smile. When she’s upset, you genuinely feel it. I would not have liked this movie as much if they had cast a different actress to play the lead role. Other cast members, like Andy Garcia and Christine Baranski, are also superbly charming. However, no one works a screen quite like Cher, who plays Sophie’s absentee grandmother, Ruby. Her rendition of ABBA’s Fernando is the best song from the sequel. At almost eighty, she’s still got it. Unfortunately, not all the cast members possess the same range as Cher. If there’s even the slightest chance of a third movie, I beg the powers that be to remove the microphone from Pierce’s hand. That man cannot sing.
Jokes aside—do yourself a favor and sing along to ABBA’s greatest hits while watching grown men do silly things for love.