This review is going to have light spoilers for Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, there are some big plot points that I am going to leave unspoiled.
When I came into the theater, I thought that it was going to be a mediocre audience but as it got closer to showtime more and more of the rows filled up. Mostly with mother, daughters, and granddaughters, I’m going to suppose. Okay, here I’m going, to be honest, if you are looking for a heavily plot-driven movie, you aren’t going to be this movie’s demographic. However, if you are a fan of fun musicals (especially of the first one), this is going to be right up your alley. Some people are saying that having second and third tier ABBA hits hinders the movie. However, having this new list of songs to draw from opens a whole new group of ABBA songs that if you’re already a fan you will enjoy and if you don’t know them you will learn to love.
The whole cast is back and is just strengthened by its younger counterparts, telling the story of how young Donna Sheridan (Lily James) fell for not just Sophie’s (played once again by the fantastic Amanda Seyfried) three possible fathers but for her beloved Greek island of Kalokairi. Nina Gold’s casting is so spot on in places, my sister was convinced that Josh Dylan (young Bill Anderson) was one of Stellan Skarsgård’s sons. While Jessica Keenan Wynn (young Tanya) absolutely channels Christine Baranski with every deadpan out of her mouth. Alexa Davies is perfect as young Rosie as well. Hugh Skinner and Jeremy Irvine portray the adorkable young Harry Bright and young Sam Carmichael, respectively. Each of the young men and their rapport with young Donna makes you feel that if you didn’t already know how the story ends, you would be wondering which one she ended up with. The older counterparts play off fantastically as characters who have now known each other for years and are of all things a family. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters both shine just as brightly as they did in the first one, however, I always am aching for them to do more. Dominic Cooper is also back as Sophie’s now geographically undesirable boyfriend, Sky. Andy Garcia will easily make women swoon as the delectable Señor Cienfuegos, the new manager of the hotel.
There is a long con spoiler in there, but you see it from a mile away and by the time that it comes up, you actually don’t care because you are loving the moment so much. The real stand out is young Donna herself, Lily James who carries a lot of not only the plot but the songs on her shoulders. While she never achieves the true gravitas that Meryl did in the first movie, she’s not meant to. This is a Donna before (and during) her heartbreak and subsequent life choices, so she’s not meant to have a lifetime of ‘what-ifs’ weighing on her mind. She’s ready to “make some memories”, and as soon as you see her strap on those familiar overalls you know that she has found her way home.
One of the worst things that they did was release the soundtrack before the movie, it gave up a bit of the plot in areas but still enough mystery to keep it going. Waterloo is one of the best-done ensemble numbers in the whole movie. An all-inclusive group of dancers, featuring a dancer in a wheelchair. Showing that although this is supposed to be 1979, it is definitely a 2018 movie. Though used in the first movie, this new version feels right at home. In fact, all of the songs reused from the first movie either feel anew or are throwbacks and will make fans smile (or tear at their heart-strings) at writer/director Ol Parker’s appreciation to detail. My Love, My Life had me near ugly cry status and I wasn’t the only one in my theater. There are songs to make you laugh (Angel Eyes, Dancing Queen & Super Trouper) and the title song takes on a new raw meaning coming from young Donna when she has just been betrayed by the beau she was sure was “the one”.
Of course I have to address the sequined diva in the room, I must say when I heard that 72-year-old Cher was going to be playing 69-year-old Meryl Streep’s mother, I had my doubts (this coming from someone who has been a fan of Cher all her life and still counts one of the highlights of said life is going to one of her farewell concerts). However, you need to suspend your disbelief for a few things, some timeline glitches, and missing accents. So, at the end of the day, it’s Cher and she is just fantastic as Sophie’s grandmother Ruby. From her flashy opening to her superb rendition of Fernando, you can see just what it’s there for and you just accept it because it’s Cher.
At the end, I had one of the best audience experiences at the movies in a long time. When the “curtain” closed and the credits began, the entire theater erupted in applause. It was positively beautiful and the perfect capper to a movie that is a bright spot where a lot of the world is dark and gloomy. Also, there is an end credit scene, which is completely worth it for true fans of both films. All in all, there is singing, there is dancing and believe me when I tell you that in the end, you will be ready to do it all over again.