Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Review: A Musical Ode to Motherhood.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again takes place ten years after the events of the first film and is a sequel and a prequel. The film opens up on Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who is still living on the island of Kalokairi. Sophie, with the help of her step-dad, Sam (Pierce Brosnan) has dedicated several years of her life remodeling Donna’s taverna and turning it into the Bella Donna Hotel. As Sophie eagerly awaits for its grand opening, she begins to think back on her mother’s life. This is when the film transports the audience back to the year 1979 where we meet young Donna (Lily James) as she begins to explore her life and sexuality immediately following her high school graduation.
I’ll admit it, I adore musicals, and one of the things that I miss the most about living on the East Coast is that I rarely get the opportunity to see a show on Broadway anymore. Growing up in New Jersey, I lived about 30 minutes from New York City so whenever I had saved up some extra cash, I would take the train into NYC and see as many plays and musicals as I could. I saw the original Mamma Mia! on Broadway probably three times and enjoyed the hell out of it. The 2008 film adaptation captured the spirit of the Broadway show and featured an all-star cast. This prequel/sequel has, even more, star power with its talented young cast as well as a brief appearance by a musical icon.
Like many, I was pretty shocked when I heard that Mamma Mia! was getting a sequel. Sure, I was excited to see it because I love the original and ABBA’s music but I had no idea what the story would entail. To my complete and total surprise, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again isn’t just a great sequel/prequel but is even better than the original film and the Broadway musical. Trust me, I realize that is a bold statement and a huge compliment to director/writer Ol Parker, but I honestly felt like this film delivered on every single level.
The original Mamma Mia! was fun, sweet, and light-hearted. However, the musical numbers weren’t all that special. One of the many reasons why I love the Greatest Showman so much is because of how big and bold the musical numbers are. The musical numbers in Greatest Showman are epic in scale and larger than life. The musical numbers in Mamma Mia! were too simple and amateurish but in Here We Go Again, there are several big show-stopping numbers. The way that Ol Parker shoots the musical sequences makes the original seem like community theater. I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t see the film as of yet, but my favorite musical numbers were definitely “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Fernando.”
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is like reuniting with a group of old friends. The entire original cast is back and just like in the original, they look as though they are having a blast. Amanda Seyfried’s character Sophie plays a pivotal role in how the story unfolds and her character has a lot going on this time around. We get to see a whole new side of Sophie, and she comes across as a lot more mature and grounded. Seyfried brings her A-game and delivers a multi-layered performance that is full of emotion.
Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as Tanya and Rosie are back. These two characters were huge highlights from the first film, and this film builds upon their backstory. In a weird way, Tanya and Rosie almost become step-mothers to Sophie. There is a scene where the three of them sing the song I’ve Been Waiting For You and I got tears in my eyes. These three actresses all share impeccable chemistry and are an utter delight to watch together on-screen.
Sam, Bill, and Harry are also back. This time around, Pierce Brosnan doesn’t sing. I remember one of the biggest criticisms that people had with the first film was how bad Brosnan’s singing was. The actor must have heard the criticism as he only sings a few lines maybe once or twice in the entire film. I love how Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård know that their characters are the comedic relief and embrace their silly side this time around. In fact, I thought the humor in this one overall was a lot funnier. I enjoyed the few run-on gags including the one about the security guy who always had something to say as well as cake being Rosie’s comfort food.
In terms of the Mamma Mia newcomers, they fit in seamlessly. Lily James’ take on Donna is even better than Meryl Streep’s take on the character. James has the honor of playing the younger version of a Meryl Streep character, but it suits her. James was perfect in the role and truly becomes Donna Sheridan. I have always found James to be incredibly energetic and likable. This serves as the perfect combo when bringing a younger version of Donna to life. It is also kind of strange to see how perfectly James is able to mimic Meryl Streep’s Donna while also adding her spin to the role.
The younger versions of Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), Harry (Hugh Skinner), Rosie (Alexa Davies), and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) are all equally great. Each one of these actors gets their moment in the spotlight. Since they portray characters that have already been established, it was interesting to watch these actors try to create a younger version of these characters. I feel like the story, as well as these actors, allowed the audience to see these characters from a whole new light. Seeing their interaction with Donna and how they met really does add a whole another layer to this film and the effectiveness of this story.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a delightful array of music, humor, and heart. A rare sequel/prequel that outshines the original. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a musical celebration for all ages and one that is a beautiful and emotional love letter to mothers everywhere. If you are a fan of musicals or ABBA, do yourself a favor and see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as soon as you can.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a 9 out of 10.