Star rating: ***
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was either going to sink or swim, here at Entertainment Views HQ we are huge fans of the original stage show and didn’t easily take to the first Mamma Mia! movie. In fact, given the choice I would still prefer to head to the West End to catch a live performance of the show inspired by the hits of Abba.
The movie grabbed my attention from the start and I couldn’t help smiling as we were transported back to Donna’s (Lily James played the younger version of the character) graduation. “I Kissed The Teacher” was the big opening number and aside from the energy and cheery vibes exuding from the screen, I was mostly delighted with Celia Imrie’s contribution as Vice Chancellor. There were plenty of exceptional comedy moments akin to Ms Imrie’s cameo appearance throughout the movie. Omid Djalili had some corking quips as a Greek Official at the port. Naturally there was also an abundance of comedy from Julie Walters as Rosie and Christine Baranski as Tanya.
The story picks up a year after the death of Donna (we don’t find out why she passed away, Streep’s absence from the movie was palpable, though) and Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has completed the hotel build (Donna’s dream), with the help of Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Sky (Dominic Cooper). There’s a gala opening planned and Sophie’s not only nervous about it, she’s also missing her mum terribly and Sky is in New York learning hotel management. Plus he’s been offered a job over there he’s keen to take. Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skargard) are both unable to attend the opening, although Rosie and Tanya are en route – hooray! The movie shows a series of flashbacks leading up to the conception of Sophie and synchronises beautifully with Sophie’s own life as she discovers she’s expecting a baby. She feels closer to her mum due to her having fallen pregnant on the same island. Although her mother is sadly missing from her life, her previously AWOL grandmother (Cher) makes an unannounced appearance on the island just in time for the party.
Unfortunately, the initial impact made by James when she sang and danced with her cohorts, young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and young Rosie (Alexa Davies) diminished quickly. Her vocals were not strong enough to handle the notoriously technically difficult Abba numbers and I had trouble buying into her as a younger version of Streep. Whereas Wynn and Davies were a perfect match for Baranski and Walters and captured my imagination at every turn. The scene featuring a young Harry (Hugh Skinner) in a restaurant with young Donna which featured the hit song ‘Waterloo’ was cringe-worthy. Skinner appeared awkward as young Harry, throughout – of course the character has gawky tendencies anyway. However, for me it felt as though this role was not the right fit for Skinner.
On the positive side, Amanda Seyfried shone as Sophie, her vocals have improved in my humble opinion and she was by far one of the strongest singers. Walters and Baranski have lost none of their original chemistry and their rendition of ‘Angel Eyes’ is the highlight of the film, for me. It has to be seen to be believed! Dominic Cooper was also superb as Sky, the onscreen relationship with Seyfried is key and their romance is at the heart of the story, as before. Cher also adds some verve to proceedings, although her version of ‘Fernando’ was rather off-kilter.
I didn’t love this sequel, I missed Streep far too much and the fact that Donna has died didn’t sit right with me. It gave the opportunity for life after Donna to be explored and for her legacy to be continued, however she is an integral character in the Mamma Mia! story and the flashbacks failed to plug that notable gap. There was too little Streep (she does make an appearance, which makes her absence all the more difficult to bear), and too many songs repeated from the first movie, a selection of new ones would have been preferable. There are also a few plot holes, the flashbacks don’t always accurately match the story told in Donna’s diary.
If you are looking for a feel-good film to take at face value and a good unashamed sing along – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again fits that bill. There are also many laugh-out-loud moments and you might spot one or two members of Abba, keep your eyes peeled!
Malvern Cinemas are showing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again until Thursday 2 August 2018, book here: Malvern Cinemas