Mama Mia! Here We Go Again
Starring Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Cher, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irvine, Andy Garcia, Josh Dylan, Dominic Cooper
Why is the sequel getting better reviews than the 2008 original? It’s certainly not because of Meryl Streep, who only shows up in the last ten minutes. The original was a cinematic summer vacation of sorts. Fun music, three-time Oscar winner Streep jumping around on mattress in the stunning location of Skopelos, Greece. The sequel trades the iconic location for budget friendly Croatia, and the difference is notable. While audiences may think they are paying full price for Streep, new addition Cher and the rest of the original gang, what they are actually getting is Lily James and Amanda Seyfried in leading roles, with everyone else playing glorified cameos.
Re-opening her mother’s hotel, Sophie (Seyfried) wishes more than anything that Donna (Streep) was still there with her. She’s planned a grand reception to revive her mothers dream and carry on in her tradition. Husband Sky (Cooper) is in New York learning hotel management and only one of her three fathers plan to attend. That leads us into the past, discovering how a young Donna (James) arrived in Greece in the first place. Along the way we see how she met the three men who would come to be Sophie’s three fathers. Sophie finds herself in some of the same situations as her mother, but at least she has the support of those her mother left behind.
Fans of the music, stage play and original film will be pacified for two hours, but likely won’t be dancing on the way out of the theater.
Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miserables”, “First Reformed”) has long since proved she isn’t just a pretty face. Her talent has extended to every genre and hearing her sing again in the sequel, reinforces her staying power in films. However, Seyfried nor her character can’t sustain the audience interest for the entire movie. Lily James (“Baby Driver”, “Cinderella”) finds her career in the same position Seyfried was ten years ago. Maturity is making James less annoying with each role, but little about her performance as Donna resembles Streep’s essence. Once the eccentric best friends played by Baranski and Walters arrive in the story, it finally starts to feel like a legitimate sequel. Newcomer Josh Dylan, playing the young version of Bill (Skarsgard’s character), is the most impressive of the flashback characters both in performance and vocals.
“What kind of island is this,” Young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) asks as every young single man looks like the next eligible bachelor. The answer to her question is a less exciting one. It’s clear that “Here We Go Again” lacks the sizzle of the original without Streep’s energy. Almost all of the songs you heard the first time around as reused here, only sung by different characters. Fans of the music, stage play and original film will be pacified for two hours, but likely won’t be dancing on the way out of the theater. The lower the expectations on this one the better. Few of the musical performances will be remembered years from now, except for maybe Cher and Garcia duetting on “Fernando”.
Less exotic locations, very little Streep and telling the same story twice makes it hard for this sequel to find sizzle.