Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again tries and in many ways succeeds in being a fun, lively follow up to its predecessor. But despite these valiant efforts, it’s very much a mixed bag.
Both a sequel and prequel, it switches between Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried)’s attempts to manage her family’s hotel and her own strained marriage without her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep)’s guidance, and a young Donna (Lily James) meeting her future daughter’s three possible fathers and carving out a life on the Greek island of Kalokairi.
This film makes several big improvements over the first, most notably Sophie abandoning the schoolgirl drama queen routine for a more refined persona, and the unexpected sincerity of the characters’ struggles with an all-too-recent tragedy.
The young versions of Donna, her friends and the three dads brilliantly capture the essence of their older counterparts and Sophie’s estranged grandmother (Cher), out-sings everyone in a spectacular cover of Fernando. Furthermore, the theme of ‘life not being as simple as we think’ will certainly speak to young people just setting out in the world.
But having to use mostly less well-known ABBA songs (the first film having used up all the famous ones), combined with singing that - in most cases - is only just above average makes the otherwise colourful musical numbers rather forgettable. There’s also not much conflict to either plotline. We already know what’s going to happen to young Donna and the film doesn’t throw in many surprises along the way. Meanwhile Sophie’s story consists largely of talking about her feelings. Not exactly riveting.
Overall, this is a fine sequel if you want singing and dancing set to gorgeous views of the Greek countryside. But at the same time, you can’t help but leave the cinema thinking ‘Was that really worth the ten year wait?’
Edited by Pete Spurrier