It’s been ten years since Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, and Christine Baranski danced their way into our hearts as Donna and the Dynamos in the movie adaptation of the hit musical Mamma Mia!
Already a hugely successful stage production, Judy Craymer, Catherine Johnson, and Phyllida Lloyd created the musical, framing ABBA hit songs around the story of young Sophie, who was searching for her father — or in this case, fathers. How do they tackle the follow-up?
10 years later, we return to the fictional island of Kalokairi, in the highly anticipated prequel-sequel to one of the most successful musicals of all time. Was it worth the wait? Yes! Before we go any further, let’s say there is something infectious about going into the cinema knowing you’re about to spend the next two hours watching Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Lily James, and Jeremy Irvine singing ABBA songs to tell you a story. Who knew Lily James had a beautiful voice?
The premise is a simple one. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) learns more about her mother’s past even as she anticipates the arrival of her own child. This opens the perfect path to create a story about the young Donna (James), the younger Harry, Sam and Bill, the dynamos and how she ended up on the island. Ol Parker’s script neatly dissolves from past to present through the musical narrative to tell the story.
The movie has no shortage of music. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography seems bigger and better. In one scene, reminiscent of the epic rescue from Dunkirk, an army of boats and an army of dancers deliver a rousing rendition of “Dancing Queen”. Parker told me when he wrote that scene he hadn’t anticipated he would be directing the film too.
The cinematography courtesy of Alan MacDonald is exquisite, capturing the lush essence of the beautiful Greek island. As you’re watching the set pieces unfold, you feel like you are on that island too, needing to order a drink and watch the Dynamos appear.
Cher, the grand diva herself, enters the scene via helicopter to visit her grandchild, and what an entrance it is. If you’ve seen the clips or the video, she performs the classic ABBA hit, “Fernando”, with Andy Garcia.
Baranski and Walters once again, like in the first movie with “Chiquitita”, steal the show with their hilarious Angel Eye rendition.
Streep’s “My Love, My Life” number is this movie’s parallel to “Slipping Through My Fingers”. Once again, her presence elevates the movie with a Seyfried/Streep duet and is easily the most sentimental moment of the film.
What is not to love about this film? It’s a movie with wall-to-wall music we love, with songs we know by heart. And if you don’t know all the words, you soon will. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is thoroughly joyful and you feel good. What more could we ask for?
Hollywood still seems to be a bit reluctant to open its arms to the musical genre in the modern era. The Greatest Showman was not well-received (ahem, here at Awards Daily, we loved it. ) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is just one of those movies where the actors are having a lot of fun, belting out ABBA song after ABBA song. It’s infectious and it’s delightfully uplifting. There’s no need to ask why? what? how did we got here? No reason to worry about what happened during the intervening ten years. Judy Craymer and Co. can save those details for another film. This sequel stands superbly on its own, but if you’ve seen the first film a million times, it’s great to have Donna’s younger years filled in for us.
There’s laughter and toe-tapping galore. And maybe in these times, it’s just what we need. It’s hard to be mad at a movie that offers up so much fun and those great Abba tunes when you have stars of this caliber sing them like never before. The men, well, they’re having a good time too — we’re treated to an all-spandex finale.
ABBA’s contribution to music is such that their songs are ingrained into our DNA. Seeing Cher, Pierce Brosnan, Andy Garcia, Streep, James, Irvine, Hugh Skinner belt out those songs just add to the unabashed guilty pleasure.
So, let your hair down, pull those dungarees on, and get ready to sing Abba songs all summer. Because Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is the sweetest delight.
Stay for the end credits. There’s a Marvel type moment not to be missed!