Saturday 28 July 2018

Movie Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

A musical sequel celebrating more of ABBA's tunes, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again manages to easily outperform the original.

On an idyllic Greek island 10 years after the events of the first film, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is planning the grand reopening of the hotel Bella Donna, now named in memory of her mother (Meryl Streep) who passed away a year earlier. Sophie's marriage to Sky (Dominic Cooper) has hit a road bump, and her mother's former bandmates Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Waters) arrive to cheer her up. Sam (Pierce Brosnan) is the only one of her three "dads" in attendance, with Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) tied up in prior engagements.

In flashback, the adventures of young Donna (Lily James) after graduating from college are recalled. Eager to escape from her mother, Donna travels the world, meets the young and flustered Harry (Hugh Skinner) in Paris and then adventurous sailor Bill (Josh Dylan) in Greece. Upon arriving at the island, Donna falls for the dishy Sam (Jeremy Irvine). She has quick affairs with all three, but is soon alone on the island, carving out her new life only to discover she is pregnant. Back in the present, Sophie's plans for a celebration are disrupted by the weather and plenty of unexpected party attendees.

While it was admittedly a low bar to step over, Here We Go Again is an effortlessly better movie than its clunky predecessor. Directed and written by Ol Parker, the sequel is freed from the stage musical, and also delves deeper into the ABBA catalogue. This proves to be a blessing: with less emphasis on singalong moments, Here We Go Again not only demonstrates the remarkable breadth of the Swedish group's talent but focuses more on plot, characters and storytelling, and the result is a much more engaging viewing experience.

Also working in the film's favour is the split between two stories: Sophie's present-day sorrow at losing her mother and determination to celebrate her memory are made so much more powerful and poignant with the flashback scenes of Donna as a young vivacious woman finding herself and influencing the lives of three men in quick succession. Despite being full of music and telling two stories, Here We Go Again clocks in under two hours, Parker demonstrating admirable restraint and stopping every scene and musical number before excess creeps in.

Despite the flightiness, many creaky moments, acknowledged silliness and prevalent self-awareness, Parker manages to scale some emotional heights. Early on Sophie and Sky sing One Of Us oceans apart but together through some beautifully fluid camera and editing work. Past the halfway mark a small flotilla arrives at the island to the timeless tune of Dancing Queen, injecting the film with a large dose of nostalgic jubilation. And the affecting climax features a genuinely tender reunion of mother and daughter across a generation to the tune of My Love, My Life.

The talented Lily James as the young Donna adds immeasurably to the film, and shares the load with Amanda Seyfried, both actresses knowing their way around delivering a song with conviction but without pretensions. Streep gets just the one song, but absolutely crushes it. Cher appears late on, voice intact but otherwise a walking (barely) advertisement about the perils of Botox and plastic surgery.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is fun, frivolous and silly, all as expected, but unexpectedly also quite decent.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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