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“Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” Review

What do you remember about 2008’s “Mamma Mia?” Honestly, probably not much. The bright musical was a cheery romp and a delightful summer distraction. Pierce Brosnan sang badly, but we all had a good time anyway. Over the years following the film’s initial release, however, “Mamma Mia!” has picked up an odd sort of cult following. Not just among theatre nerds (me), but gradually among lovers of movie musicals.

Enter “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” Ten years later and this sequel feels long overdue. Admittedly, I was extremely hyped for the release of this film. I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Thespian rose-tinted glasses aside and cynical critic heart in place, I acknowledged the first film for the fun but slightly dragging piece that it is. Regardless, I was excited to get my butt in a seat for a return to Kalokairi. If you loved the first film, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” does not disappoint. This is a fun movie!

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is directed by Ol Parker and features an even larger, even more dazzling cast. Amanda Seyfried returns as Sophie Sheridan and is joined by original cast members Christine Baranski, Julie Waters, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan, and Dominic Cooper. In addition, we have a whole new set of faces playing the same beloved roles (just younger, sexier incarnations) led by Lily James with the incredible support of Jessica Kennan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan.

Andy Garcia, Meryl Streep, and the incomparable Cher, herself, also star in the film.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” picks up five years after the events of the 2008 ABBA jukebox musical (all based on the 1999 theatrical sensation). Fun Fact: “Mamma Mia!” is the ninth longest running show in the history of Broadway and it enjoyed an even more successful run in London’s West End.

With her mother, Donna, having passed away a year ago Sophie (Seyfried) prepares a grand re-opening of her mother’s hotel. The realization of her mother’s lifelong dream. Lover’s quarrels, the enduring power of friendship, and delightful shenanigans abound as we are given a look into Donna’s past (and see how Sophie balances that with her own future). Keeping up with the events that brought each of Sophie’s “dads” into Donna’s life and eventually carried Donna to the idyllic island of Kalokairi.

As I stated, previously, this movie is fun. A criticism that I have maintained about the first film is that it was a drag strung together with your favorite karaoke songs. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is bursting with energy. The good stuff. The kind that makes you want to buy in and cheer and laugh. The entire production has a lot more movement and color and it’s, overall, much more fun to watch.

There’s no denying that the film learned from previous mistakes. This time around there was much more care given to the vocal talents (or lack thereof) of cast members, how these songs truly fit into the overall story, and, most importantly, building a truly emotional story in the first place.

It’s hard to not fall head over heels in love with this cast. All of our favorite characters return and give us exactly what we want. But, even better, is seeing the origin stories of those beloved characters and seeing them fleshed out so sincerely and lovingly. The performances in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” are rock solid.

My cynical critic heart is not above some seduction. I’ll just come out and say it… “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is so pretty! The locations. The costumes. THE COSTUMES!!! Every element is so vibrant and I found myself making notes less on critiques of the film and more along the lines of “Need to find pants like that.”

There are, of course, some flaws. You probably could have guessed as much. This is not a perfect movie. Like the first “Mamma Mia!” the sequel suffers from a case of Too Much Stuff, Not Enough Run Time. We flit from storyline to storyline and never quite get as much as we need. There always seems to be time to cram in just one more love connection, dammit, but not enough time to answer other questions. Plot problems abound.

But frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” has a heart and soul and, for all the story problems, it evokes very real emotions. Heartstrings are tugged with reckless abandon, even more so if you are coming in with affection for these characters.

Most importantly, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a story about mothers. The special place they hold in our lives. The way the desire to make a parent proud drives us. How a mother helps you find your path; as a guiding hand or as a target for your belligerent rebellion. The maternal bond, biological and chosen, is so strong and is a beautiful undercurrent throughout this entire sweet story.

Some elements of the film, regardless, are quite silly. The greatest sin of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a criminally underutilized Cher and a wooden Andy Garcia. Nine times out of ten, I’m content for Andy Garcia to just stand around and look sexy but, if you must have him perform, get the man a choreographer! The entire Cher/Andy Garcia thread was the most forced and the most awkwardly executed. A damn shame since both were easily among my top draws to the sequel. I’m thoroughly obsessed with both.

My parting thoughts? Give “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” a fair shake and lighten up a bit! Silly entertainments can be good for you and a little song and dance never hurt anybody! If you’re open to having fun, you absolutely will have fun with this one.

“Mammia Mia: Here We Go Again” is out now! 

Featured image credit: Legendary Entertainment

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