Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
Jacob Richardson | 18/07/2018
Schmaltzy and wholly unbelievable, Mamma Mia 2 does best in two scenarios; firstly, when it heads back in time, and secondly when Cher steals the whole goddamn show.
The film chronicles Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) attempt to launch an updated hotel on the Grecian island her mother called home. She’s rebranded and redesigned, with the new Bella Donna a tribute to her recently deceased mother (Donna, played by Meryl Streep). However, her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is trapped in New York and will miss the opening, as will Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), Harry (Colin Firth) and her grandmother Ruby (Cher). The only one who seemingly will make it is Sam (Pierce Brosnan), who himself is still reeling from the loss of his beloved. The only person she can take solace in is her new hotel manager, Fernando (Andy Garcia), whose dour demeanour from an old broken heart masks his enthusiasm to assist the young lady.
Amidst all of this, Sophie finds herself relating more and more to the early years of her mother. And so, we are given a number of flashbacks that show how young Donna (Lily James) came to be on the island, and came to meet young Bill (Josh Dylan), young Harry (Hugh Skinner) and young Sam (Jeremy Irvine).
Mamma Mia was a success, but also critically panned - particularly for the singing of some of its stars. Here, they very much eschew the singing prowesses of the elder three male stars (an undoubtedly smart move). Instead, the focus very much is on the younger crowd, in James, Dylan, Skinner and Irvine. And they are more than up to the task.
James is a breath of fresh air across the screen, bringing a bubbly vivaciousness and indefatigable tenacity to the character that makes her decision to raise a child alone on a Grecian island far from home utterly believable. She’s matched in acting prowess by Irvine, who, together with James, manages to bring incredible pathos to a tense argumentative scene at the end of the second act.
In terms of the older cast, Skarsgard gets an indelible moment to shine when he breaks down into tears at the loss of Donna, and Seyfried is tremendous as always. They aren’t always matched by the script, which is often weak - jumping from key scene to key scene like it is checking boxes off a list, rather than telling a cohesive story. It’s better in the flashbacks, where realism and tragedy tends to creep in more, but in the modern set hotel opening drama it is almost wholly unbelievable. The hotel set design, which looks almost exactly like a Hollywood sound stage, doesn’t help.
But then again, Mamma Mia and indeed Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again was never about the robust story or the set design. Both films are about the music, and there’s enough here to keep you tapping your toes throughout. The first and second act might shoehorn in a couple of obscure, second tier ABBA songs, but the third act blows them out of the water with all the hits coming back.
Not to mention Cher, whose appearance is absolutely show stopping. Her duet with Fernando (of, obviously, Fernando) was not only backlit by literal fireworks, but raised cheers and claps from the audience we saw it with. It also marked, very much so, the point in the film where even the cynic starts enjoying themselves; because while the first two acts have storytelling problems coming out the wazoo, the third act is just simple, joyous, musical fun.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again isn’t going to win any awards for the quality of its filmmaking. But it is undeniably joyous and absolutely fun, and will have you singing all the way home.