Lily James is the best part of the movie.
After finding massive box office success back in 1999, Mamma Mia!, a film based on the legendary musical, was always destined to have a sequel. It was only a matter of when. That time has come. Returning most of the original cast and still built around the music of ABBA, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again aims to recapture the magic of its predecessor.
A year after the passing of her mother, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is re-opening her mom’s hotel amid no end of chaos as two of her fathers — Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) — are unable to attend, and her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in New York and considering accepting a permanent position there.
As Sophie struggles in the present, we get a look into the past when her mother, Donna (Lily James) set out to travel the world. It’s on this trip that Donna meets her daughter’s “three fathers,” Harry (played in the past by Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). While the first two appear to be more like flings, Donna falls for Sam until realizing that he’s engaged to another woman.
These flashbacks are interspersed with more problems in the present, as the hotel is waylaid by a tropical storm that destroys some of the preparations and prevents the planned coverage of the re-opening. While Sophie leans on Sam (Pierce Brosnan) for support, her other fathers abandon their plans to try to reach the hotel in time for the big event.
Mamma Mia is a musical, so it’s probably a good thing that the best parts of the film are the numerous songs and their accompanying performances. While they’re all well choreographed, a few of the standouts include “Waterloo,” “Fernando” (Cher‘s big number) and “Mamma Mia,” which is probably the most elaborate of the bunch.
Although most of the cast returns from the original, it’s James of Downton Abbey fame that ends up standing out. As young Donna she exudes a fresh innocence of somebody looking to learn all they can about the world and have fun doing it. Even while some of the other young versions of familiar characters were less than engaging, James was able to carry the flashback scenes and make them the highlight of the non-musical sections.
Considering how prominently Meryl Streep is featured on the film’s marketing materials, it’s almost comical how little she actually appears in the movie. Yes, obviously the present-day plot takes place after her death, but we kept expecting one of the many flashbacks to cover Sophie at Streep’s age again. Nope. She’s literally in one scene, so if you thought Blade Runner 2049 took liberties with Harrison Ford‘s involvement in promotions versus screen time, it has nothing on this.
Musicals in general aren’t renowned from their plot, but even on a sliding scale this is a pretty vapid tale. It beats you over the head with the parallels between Donna as a young woman and Sophie, and it’s painfully obvious that all these negatives are piling up just so it can be all the more amazing when everything miraculously works out.
THE BONUS FEATURES
There is a ton of short extras here that should sate the appetite of any Mamma Mia! fan, going through the story, the cast, making the musical numbers and so on. Musical performances are separated individually and contain the lyrics across the bottom for singing along. There’s a couple of extended musical numbers and a wholly deleted one (“I Wonder”) that are worth watching.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again knows exactly what it wants to be and never deviates from the path. If you liked the original, odds are you’re going to enjoy the sequel. If not, move along.