‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a Bubbly Musical

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – I give in. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” the sequel to the much derided “Mamma Mia,” is a bubbly, frothy here-come-the-good-times musical that fits summer like a glove. The flashback format will also answer all the burning questions that were left unanswered from the first film, and the cast includes Cher!

The film is set in the modern day and in a series of flashbacks to Donna’s (the Meryl Streep character) origins on that Greek Island… replete with the stereotypical Greek natives who seem trapped as villagers. It’s a star studded event, with returnees Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Starsgard, along with Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, joined by Lily Taylor as the Young Donna. In other words, it’s just like every other musical that has been ever been made! Except, like in the first film, it uses songs from the 1970s pop phenomenon ABBA. Since many of the huge hits were used up in “Mamma Mia,” some of the songs were definitely their “B” material. Yet it all adds up to a pleasant outing at the cinema.

After the death of her mother Donna (Meryl Streep), daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is turning the dream of opening a hotel on Donna’s special Greek Island to reality. As preparations are made for opening night, there are flashbacks to how Young Donna (Lily James) discovered the island, along with her pals Tanya and Rosie (portrayed by Jessica Keenan Wynn/Alexa Davies as younger, Christine Baranski/Julie Walters in present day).

Young Donna (Lily James) and Her Back Ups in ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Sophie’s main “Dad,” Sam (Pierce Brosnan) is helping with the hotel launch, but her other fathers – explained in the flashbacks – are Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Harry (Colin Firth), but they cannot attend the opening. When a fierce storm reeks destruction on the eve of the launch, all seems lost. But with a little song, a little dance and an appearance by Grandma Ruby (Cher!), the good ship Mamma Mia will prevail.

The is serious light and bubble, and the musical notion to break out into song and dance are shamelessly exploited. But that is the rub, they’re not trying to be anything but what they are… a singalong to ABBA songs set in a pretty place. The film also has a sense of humor about itself, and pays homage to some previous musicals (“Hello Dolly!” immediately comes to mind). The more serious/emotional parts, including a weirdly concocted tribute to Streep, didn’t play as well as the pure and light singing.

Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgard, Baranski and Walters are all consummate pros, who are able to deliver the material without too much strain. Particularly funny is Colin Firth, who manages to leave the deal of his lifetime in Asia (“you will be the largest company in all of Europe”), participate in a running gag with the passport checker for the island, and then dance his way into our hearts to the tune of “Dancing Queen.” God save him.

The Cast of ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

And how about those ABBA songs! Those hummable and well-known tunes like “When I Kissed the Teacher,” “Kisses of Fire,” and “I’ve Been Waiting for You.” Yes, producers and original ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus delved into their “B” material for this Mamma Mia, and why not? They’re pop kings of the world! Don’t worry, there are familiar tracks – including the title song and “Dancing Queen”– and one of my favorites, “Waterloo,” which is choreographed in the style of the aforementioned “Hello Dolly!”… with singing and dancing waiters.

From the oohs, aahs and applause from the preview audience, the Mamma Mia concept retains its vox populi appeal, despite the sorrowful notion of hardened middle aged white man film critics pish-poshing the whole shebang. To quote the clown Bozo, “hey, that’s me!” But “… Here We Go Again” is a charmer, the opposite of sorrowful.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens everywhere on July 20th. Featuring Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Christine Barankski, Andy Garcia, Meryl Streep and Cher! Screenplay and directed by Ol Parker. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2018 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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