It’s hard to believe the first film came out 10 years ago. I remember Mamma Mia distinctively as it was the first film I had ever watched multiple times in cinema (each bringing a different person to accompany me because back then I didn’t go to movies by myself, and I was obsessed).
In Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, our favourite characters return and new characters are brought along for the ride. In the film that is both prequel and sequel, Sophie played by Amanda Seyfried is reopening and rebranding ‘Villa Donna’ as ‘Hotel Bella Donna’ in tribute to her late mother, Donna Sheridan played by Meryl Streep. While Sophie struggles to accept life without her mother, the film provides flashbacks to young Donna played by Lily James during the year where Donna meets Sophie’s dads, Harry, Bill and Sam.
While Lily James is by far the standout of the entire film, I found myself getting sick of the flashbacks and wanting to see more of the actors and characters that I fell in love with from the first film. In particular, I wanted to see more of Donna’s best friends Rosie and Tanya played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. I must admit however, the casting for their younger selves played by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn was perfect. Both actors portray the characters wonderfully.
Although the original film is based on the stage musical production of the same name, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is not. Instead, the film is a direct follow up of the first film and has an identity of its own. Is it much of an identity in comparison to its predecessor? I don’t think so.
Although the film is fun, camp and ridiculously humorous, the film is also inconsistent and cringeworthy. The continuity with the grandmother being referred to as dead in the first film (also in the stage production) is poor with Cher suddenly gracing us with “Fernando” and then claiming that Sophie received her talents from her grandmother. Did we for a moment forget the whole film is circled around the loss of Sophie’s mother who could also sing and was part of her own band, ‘Donna and the Dynamos’? Not that I have anything against Cher, but I feel this decision was done to bring the grandmother (previously dead) into the picture using a legendary pop icon was to distract from the very empty plotline of the sequel portion of the film.
And while I do love musicals, I found Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again to have very little dialogue and lots of singing with no context or relation to the actual plotline. I know, I know. It’s a musical. But at the very least, in the first film (and with the stage musical), the songs have altered lyrics from the original ABBA songs so that they make sense with the storyline.
I am glad that the film exists and I’m happy for fans who have waited a decade to be reunited with their favourite characters, but I believe that there is something missing that didn’t carry over from the original film. If you felt unsatisfied like me while watching Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, you’ll at least be somewhat happy with the end credits song number which is much like the original film and stage musical encore. Otherwise, don’t get your hopes up, the film aims to please and does whatever it takes to give the fans what they want, but it is by no means better than the original nor does it gives fans what they need.
Am I saying that it was bad? Not at all. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is fun, but it isn’t special. The magic from the first film never carries over and it shows. Please note, I am an avid theatre fan who has seen the stage production of Mamma Mia and may be more harsh on this film than others. But I believe you’re supposed to love movie musicals and feel every emotion. There is very little depth in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. I didn’t swoon, I didn’t cry, and with these kind of films I want to be moved, I want to cry, I want to feel everything. I want to be inspired to go again and again. I was not. I am not saying that I would never see it again. I would. But just not any time soon.