If you are a fan of ABBA or of the first “Mamma Mia”, you’ll probably enjoy the sequel. Otherwise, you might struggle to reconcile the hype with the reality. It’s got some serious star power and a couple of touching moments that may be enough to make you leave the theatre with a smile on your face or song in your heart—as long as you embrace the fact that it’s far from perfect.
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” picks up a few years after the original left off. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is living on the picturesque fictional Greek island of Kalokairi where her mother originally landed twenty-plus years ago. Donna (Sophie’s mom, played by Meryl Streep) has passed away, but Sophie is committed to transforming her property into a world-class hotel in her mother’s honor… and as the pressure mounts to achieve her vision, she finds out she’s pregnant.
This present-day narrative is then expertly juxtaposed with highlights from Donna’s twenties when she first arrived on the island, found the property, and met the three men who could have been Sophie’s dad. All sorts of fun happens in the past, and present, as a rotating cast of characters join in on the adventures and musical numbers. Characters worth noting include Donna’s best college chums Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski), and her three dads (the adult versions played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård, respectively).
For me, there were some aspects of the movie that were really frustrating. ABBA’s collection of hit songs weren’t written to form a coherent plot, and the results of shoehorning them into one were mixed at best. Using “When I Kissed the Teacher” in place of a commencement speech, and having Cher appear to sing “Fernando”, just felt downright awkward.
Additionally, I struggled with the treatment of young Donna’s adventures with three eager lads, one of whom is the lucky father to Sophie. Was it realistic to portray Donna as ashamed and embarrassed of having short relationships with three handsome men, especially since the scene was set in the middle of the sexual revolution?
On the flip side, I loved the bright, colorful sets and the dynamic choreography, especially the montage when the two of the dads are on their way at the last minute to the celebration on a flotilla of fishing boats – filled with locals all dancing up a storm.
The entire cast was lovely, but Lily James, who you may remember as Lady Rose MacClare from Downton Abbey, had the most delightful of all the performances. She had the job of playing young Donna. Her cheer and brightness (not to mention the fun-loving character she got to play) were a breath of fresh air. Donna’s long-time friends Rosie and Tanya were my runner-up favourites for their contrasting (yet complementary) personalities and unequivocal support and love for Donna and Sophie.
One sweet scene that did strike a chord with me was near the end: a dreamlike sequence in which Sophie and the spirit of Donna sing at the christening of Sophie’s newborn. Set to “My Love, My Life”, it had me thinking I should text my mom once the credits rolled.
Unfortunately for me, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” felt nonsensical and campy as a whole, and the star-studded cast and ABBA hits couldn’t save it. That said, it had some redeeming qualities. It served as a welcome reminder about the importance of family and friends, the key role they play in supporting our own journey, and maybe even having a little fun along the way.
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.