Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The cast is back for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018). If you read my review for the first film (if not, here it is), you know I didn’t really enjoy the story, and it kind of ruined the experience of the film for me. So, I went into this ill-advised sequel with low expectations; however, I left slightly surprised, because I mostly enjoyed the experience. My issues with the story of the first aren’t present here, and despite my claim to not like Abba, I can’t get the songs out of my head.

I had more fun the second time around so Here We Go Again is worth a watch

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has remodeled her mother’s hotel in Greece and is about to have the grand opening one year after Donna (Meryl Streep) has died. Everyone has been invited to the party, but it looks like two of her three dads are unavailable, and her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is off learning the business in New York. Flashbacks of Donna (Lily James) graduating college, traveling Europe, and meeting each of Sophie’s three dads are shown to explore how Donna ended up in this island hotel. Director Ol Parker finds interesting ways to transition back and forth between the two time periods – sometimes during musical numbers.

Young Tanya (JESSICA KEENAN WYNN), Young Donna (LILY JAMES) and Young Rosie (ALEXA DAVIES) in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” 

Lily James may be the big difference in this film from the first. Many of the performances in the film belong to her character and she does great work with them. A key reason she gets so much to do is that of the structure of the story, which resembles The Godfather II. Don’t freak out yet – I’m not saying this film is anywhere near as good as The Godfather II – but it serves a similar function for Donna, comparable to that of which Vito Corleone received in The Godfather II. So much of the first film was spoken exposition, but here we get to see those moments play out with the charm of James behind the performance. Her smile and voice instantly pull you in, and even if you weren’t heavily invested in the story prior, you will be now. In fact, the casting of all of the younger versions of the three dads and Donna’s Dynamos is pretty incredible. They all sing very well (better than most of the male adult cast…sorry, Pierce, but you can’t sing well), and the dance numbers are entertaining, even if some of the songs are lesser known.

Rosie (JULIE WALTERS), Sam (PIERCE BROSNAN), Sophie (AMANDA SEYFRIED) and Tanya (CHRISTINE BARANSKI) in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” 

The returning cast is lead by Seyfried, who does a good job in her return. Her side of the plot gets a little too dramatic for my tastes at times, but it’s far more simplistic than the first film. The biggest disservice of the film was the marketing for it. Much of the plot that is sold in the trailer doesn’t get brought up in the film until the third act. It’s not really what the film is about as much as it is the lesson that is learned from it. Of course, this isn’t the fault of the movie, but rather the studio…who needs to rethink how they advertise their products. At least the promise from the trailer does show up, but it feels like Parker had intended much of that information to be a reveal for the characters and the audience, which is ultimately taken away if the trailer was seen before viewing the film.   

Final thoughts…

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was more enjoyable to me than the first. I think the songs are probably better overall in the first film, but that plot felt so constructed that it annoyed me. Here, I was compelled to see Donna’s backstory, and really enjoyed James in the role. There were some very sentimental moments that did manage to make my eyes water, even though one scene was a little unfair. Overall, I’d say Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again earns a Decent Watch rating.

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