Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! takes us back to the Greek island of Kalokairi for a fun musical journey through time between past and present.
If there is one thing that Ol Parker learned from the first film, it’s a little bit of Pierce Brosnan singing goes a long way. Brosnan was heavily criticized for his singing in the first film and rightfully so. This time around, something is different. Brosnan’s singing is more or less reverted to the chorus background on most numbers but he gets a solo. It follows an emotional moment between Sam Carmichael and step-daughter Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried). No surprise, Brosnan reprises “SOS” but he slows down the number to a place where he’s capable of singing the tune. Much to the surprise of many, James Bond has redeemed himself.
The film in itself is both a prequel and a sequel. We see how Donna made her way to the island in 1979 following her graduation from Oxford, after kicking off the film with “When I Kissed the Teacher.” One of the songs sees the younger Donna writing in the journal while singing as Sam sleeps in bed. We see the journal make a return. It was fun to watch how Donna met Harry Bright, Bill Anderson, and Sam when they were younger. It was very fun to see young Harry (Hugh Skinner) struggle with French thinking that Donna worked at the hotel.
In present day, Sophie is bring Donna’s dream to life with the opening of Hotel Bella Donna. Unfortunately for Sophie, the fancy party that she was planning is now at stake when Señor Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia) warns her of a storm heading their way. This beautifully segues to when Donna meets young Sam (Jeremy Irvine) while searching for help.
It’s a nice throwback to the first film in how Donna meets Bill (Josh Dylan). Just like Harry and Sam on the way to the wedding, she just misses the Ferry and who else is there to save the day but Bill. Once on the island, Donna meets Sam.
After Sam has left, Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn)–the other members of Donna and The Dynamos–come to visit and cheer her up. It’s by this point that Donna is living in the farmhouse she discovered. She’s very much a singer but she’s not feeling like singing about love because of the hurt. This is were she slowly belts “Mamma Mia” with maybe even more force than Meryl Streep did years earlier.
There are several scenes throughout the film that draw on similar occasions in the first film. Whether it’s a line, a song, or simply an homage, there’s a lot that ties together both films. Even in the new film, they could reference something during present day and the film will cut away to the past in a moment’s notice. We see the hurt that Sam referenced earlier upon coming back for Donna to find that she had already moved on. You can see it in his face and one can’t help but empathize with him.
The choreography on numbers like “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper” are especially fun to watch. “Waterloo,” too. The former is a fun-to-watch set piece leading up to an emotional reunion between Sophie and Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), and Sky (Dominic Cooper). With top-notch choreography on land and the flotilla, it would be hard to improve the piece. Perhaps the most emotional moment is watching the return of Donna Sheridan in her Meryl Streep form. The song of choice only makes it more emotional and should resonate with mothers and daughters around the globe. We wish we could have more of Meryl but the choice they made with the script only heightens the emotional tone of the film.
On the casting front, Lily James is able to capture the free spirit that we want in Donna. She matches Meryl Streep in her approach of the character. This isn’t an easy feat for any actress to do but James absolutely nails it. The Downton Abbey alumnus who brought Cinderella to life and had a supporting role in Baby Driver has proven that she’s leading lady material. You’ll see her later this year in Little Woods. The casting of Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn as the younger Rosie and Tanya are absolutely perfect. They really are 100% the younger versions of Julie Walters and Christine Baranski in how they dress, act, and sing.
Even though it’s ten years later, I don’t understand how nobody had the decency to take a paternity test. It seems like it would have been such the obvious thing to do. Personally, I think it’s Sam but that’s just me. Maybe it’s because of how hurt he looked when he returned to the mainland.
There’s something magical in watching Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again bring the spirit and tone of the first film.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Ol Parker
CAST: Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Alexa Davies, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Jessica Keenan Wynn, with Cher and Meryl Streep