Quickly now! See if you can guess how I felt about Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again based on these facts. 1) I loved the now 10-year-old Mamma Mia! 2) I love ABBA. 3) I love a musical. Have you guessed yet?
And you’re right! I loved Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. In this review, I’ll try to give you a more reasoned and rational explanation for why this musical love fest should be on your watch list.
Let’s review. Mamma Mia! from 2008 was about Donna (Meryl Streep) and her daughter Sofia (Amanda Seyfried). In the process of renovating her run-down hotel on a Greek island, Donna invited her friends and former singing group pals Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) to come help her celebrate the opening. She also accidentally invited three men who might be Sofia’s father: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry (Colin Firth). All this happened while wrapping a plausable plot around the singing of ABBA songs.
Sofia and the three men decided they were all her father. Everyone was happy. The review is over. There won’t be a test.
Now it’s five years later and we’re with Sofia in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Donna died (tears all round) and Sofia fixed up the place. She’s reopening the hotel. It’s party time. Her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in NYC at hotel management school. Sofia invites Tanya and Rosie. Sam lives in the hotel full time; Sofia invites Bill and Harry. The one person she doesn’t invite is her grandma (Cher).
There are many flashbacks as Sofia remembers her mother and how she loved the hotel. We jump between modern day Sofia and young Donna (Lily James).
We get a younger version of everyone, not just a young Donna. Here’s the lineup: Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn), Rosie (Alexa Davies), Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Harry (Hugh Skinner). It’s much easier to keep these young’uns all sorted when you’re seeing it on screen, so don’t stress over all those credits.
In between Sofia thinking about her mom and how she wants the re-grand opening of the hotel to be a success in her mother’s honor, we see young Donna leave college. She’s unsure about her future, so she takes off on an adventure. She meets three young men on her way to the place in Greece she can’t bear to leave. Yet she’s alone in Greece when she learns she’s pregnant by one of them. (Later it’s decided all three fellas were responsible. We covered this in the review.)
This is very much a women’s story. It’s Donna’s tale about her three boyfriends on her adventure to find herself in Greece. Donna was nobody’s girlfriend. The guys were her boyfriends. The decisions were all Donna’s. Donna’s strength and support came from her women friends. That’s why the original Mamma Mia! resonated 10 years ago, and why the visit to Donna’s past is still powerful.
There’s a huge storm before the night of the re-opening party. Sofia’s in the dumps because no one could make it through the storm and all the decorations were knocked down. Her manager (Andy Garcia) reassures her that it’s all fixable. Sofia’s also hanging over the toilet, because she just figured out she’s pregnant. Like mother, like daughter.
On the mainland (or some larger nearby island) we find Bill, Harry, and Sky organizing a fleet of fishing boats to come to the island with a bunch of party-ready revelers. It’s back on.
When Grandma shows up at the party uninvited and recognizes Sofia’s manager as her old beau Fernando, the party is complete. (We’ll just skip over the logistics of Cher being Meryl Streep’s mother, shall we?)
Jump ahead 9 months to the christening of Sofia’s baby. Everyone climbs to the chapel perched on an impossible pinnacle of rock. The ghost of Donna shows up to sing a song. A beautiful song. It made me cry, I tell you, and I resisted crying over the missing Donna when everyone else in the film shed tears for her.
The Chicken or the Egg
It’s a wonder to me how a plot can be built around songs by ABBA. Every song is appropriate to a plot that does track and make sense as the movie dances along. Which comes first, the plot or the song choice?
Everyone sings. Even Pierce Brosnan. And nobody laughed this time. Did they give him a more appropriate song for his voice? He sounded pretty dang good. Most of the singing is wonderful – these folks can sing! Of course, Cher shows up at the last minute to remind you what a real singer does to a song. You may not know this, but I’m always saying Andy Garcia should sing more often. Nothing like singing with Cher to take it all the way to the top, Andy.
The female positive message, the irresistible rhythms of ABBA, the dancing, the ocean, the sun, the island, the brilliant colors of the costumes and sets – it all adds up to happiness and joy.
Real life is dragging us down. The country is in trouble. People don’t make enough money to live on. The climate crisis is real. Politics are a horror show on 24 hours a day. Health care is a mess. I could go on, but you know the situation as well as I do.
I didn’t realize how depressed I was by life until I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. In the theater I experienced happiness and pleasure and I felt good. I didn’t notice how bad I’ve been feeling until something made me feel good again. This movie is an antidote. Go see it in the theater and then buy the DVD or rent it on demand or wait for it on Netflix and keep watching it whenever you need it. Wear it out. Learn all the songs by heart. Put the soundtrack in your car (Spotify has it) and sing in traffic.
Maybe in a more positive frame of mind, we can do what we need to do (like show up to vote in November) to make the world a happier and better place.
Sofia’s 3 dads were kicking it, but let me quote one of my own tweets in honor of the women elders, who rock!
I offer as proof that #Eldersrock: Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Cher and Meryl Streep.
— OldAintDead (@OldAintDead) July 22, 2018
Have you seen Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? What did you think of it?