Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, and Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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).

Lily James in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Young Donna

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.

Alexa Davies, Lily James, and Jessica Keenan Wynn in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
College graduation

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.

Cher in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Let the party commence.

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.

Elders Rock

Sofia’s 3 dads were kicking it, but let me quote one of my own tweets in honor of the women elders, who rock!

Have you seen Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? What did you think of it?

9 thoughts on “Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

  1. I also liked Mama Mia the first, but this sequel/prequel just did not live up to the hype. It seemed forced and trite and very confusing with the back and forth cast. The music was okay although I did not recognize most of the ABBA songs in this version. I guess I would characterize it as “camp.” The characters were over the top, especially Cher, and meant to be humorous. Would I recommend it? Not unless you REALLY loved Mama Mia and are willing to step back a little and enjoy it for what it is.

  2. I agree with Carol. I was looking forward to seeing “Mamma Mia! Here we go again” and left the theatre a tad disappointed. I was longing for a light summer movie just like the first part. But the mix of the more light-hearted backstory of Donna and the present day troubles of coping with her death didn’t do it for me. The movie lacks the presence Meryl Streep and overcompensates with too many characters (even if most of them were the young versions of the old). The casting of young Bill and especially Harry was disappointing and the songs (many of them unknown to me, except for the ones they recycled from part one) were perfectly choreographed, but except for the Donna/Sophie duet lacked feeling (Sky and Sophie’s storyline … really?). Sorry, but as you can see I didn’t like the film that much. My highlights were Christine Baranski and Julie Walters. And Lily James has a great presence and a great singing voice.

  3. Mama Mia – Here We Go Again

    High expectations would be an understatement for this “romantical”, as Netflix, “Annie with an E” would call it, summer musical. It was everything I craved and then some.

    Twists and turns, both from the past and the present, kept the film from being trite. This film is campy and fun and it takes the audience away from the intense reality of today’s world to a whimsical Greek island with breath taking views.

    The emotional experience can transfer the audience from a child’s view to that of a wise elder, if the audience member chooses to participate rather than simply observe. The music was delightful and the lyrics brought viewers right in to each emotional twist and turn with precision. For avid ABBA fans, it might have been a challenge to put their arms around the fresh changes. However, the changes worked. And worked well.

    Bravo! Bravo!

    1. “The emotional experience can transfer the audience from a child’s view to that of a wise elder, if the audience member chooses to participate rather than simply observe.”

      I tried to participate, I really did. But I felt like the film kept me at arm’s length.

      1. A member of my family, who lost someone special in a tragic accident, is hurt by stories like this that “bring back” someone who’s gone as a ghost. She knows there’s no way to really bring back those who are gone and it makes her sad to see it done in fiction. But she also realizes that the intent of the film was to be fun and light and entertaining. It hit one of her trigger points and that affected her enjoyment. Not everyone reacts to things in the same way.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie – found it very interesting to see just how Donna met up with all the possible baby daddys – Lily James as Donna was terrific – feel she really portrayed Donna as the fearless adventurer that she was. If you are not a true ABBA fan some of the songs will not be familiar. They have a huge catalog not just the songs that got radio play. I love the way the film again was scripted to go with the written music. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable film –

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