Directed by Ol Parker
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Cher
Perhaps the only film where the audience sing-along version may be preferable to the cast recording, Mamma Mia!, gets a long overdue sequel. Catching up with the characters five years after the fist film, as well as showing the events of Donna’s past, as Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to fulfil her mother’s dream of re-opening the Hotel Belladonna she reflects on her mother’s past life, and the events that resulted in Sophie having three fathers.
Australia has always had a passion for ABBA, as we are reminded almost every year around Eurovision. We were one of the first countries to embrace the international superstars, and that has echoed through our culture ever since (Björn Again, Muriel’s Wedding), so it’s hard to deny that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has some audience appeal. However it is certainly muted this time around. ABBA’s back catalogue is deep enough to trawl through for a fair number of hits that were not in the first film, but there are also a number of lesser known songs and repeated refrains. This jukebox musical lacks a flair with staging many of its songs, never getting us over this hump so we can escape the feeling that we’ve seen it all before.
It’s not all doom and gloom. The younger cast for the prequel storyline, as we flash back to Donna’s early life, are exceptionally well cast. Lily James brings enough of Streep’s performance to the role, while making the character her own. She demonstrates the quirky, free spirited nature in full flight, and is impressively backed up by the Jessica Keenan Wynn (who gives an uncanny turn as a young Tanya), and Alexa Davies (young Rose). Similarly the cast for the younger versions of Sophie’s three fathers also hits the mark. Critically, they all can at least sing (or be fixed up in post production – honestly I don’t care, at least my ears weren’t bleeding this time).
The fault lies not in the stars, but the stakes. With the prelude, we know the outcome and most of the story, with the events set in the present (with the previous cast) there is not much more than a cursory notion of a tale, with little to invest in. The returning cast are certainly having fun, but it lacks verve.
Then Cher turns up.
The icon’s appearance, close to the end, lifts things with the best number of the film, setting Mamma Mia! in good stead for the closing quarter of an hour. It may be a little late, but it buoys the audience, and allows for a surprisingly emotional version of My Life My Love before the upbeat ensemble finale of Super Trouper.
In all, you know what you are getting into with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. It’s more of the same, and despite lacking some of the camp enthusiasm that the first film had, should satisfy die hard fans.