“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is the feel-good movie of the summer


Courtesy of IMDb

Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”

Trevor Tyle, Editor-in-Chief

I’m not ashamed to say that “Mamma Mia!” is one of my all-time favorite movies. In a world where musicals are becoming few and far between, it’s refreshing to see a film that wholeheartedly embraces the genre—and even more refreshing to see it done well. However, this created what were probably unrealistically high expectations on my end for its unprecedented sequel, appropriately titled “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” But thankfully, in spite of the 10-year gap between films, “Here We Go Again” shines just as bright as its predecessor.

“Here We Go Again” serves as both a sequel and a prequel, comprised of scenes five years after the original film and flashbacks to 20 years before it. This time around, we find Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) struggling to cope with the absence of her mother Donna (Meryl Streep), whose newly renovated hotel is days away from its grand reopening. With her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) and two of her potential fathers, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), unable to attend, Sophie feels helpless, a sentiment only strengthened by the realization that she’s pregnant.

Turning to her stepfather, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), and her mother’s dimwitted friends, Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski), for guidance, Sophie learns how her three potential fathers met Donna and shaped the woman we meet in the first film.

The film clocks in at just under two hours, but it fills every minute with nearly 20 ABBA-infused musical numbers and plenty of humor, the latter of which surpasses the first film’s, largely thanks to the returning dynamic duo of Walters and Baranski. Between their constant bickering and witty one-liners (“be still, my beating vagina” is a personal favorite), they never fail to steal the spotlight, validated by their priceless performance of “Angel Eyes.”

Meanwhile, Streep’s role, which was the heart and soul of the first film, has been reduced to a glorified cameo, which feels unfortunate yet fitting for the story. While her screentime is minimal, she does the most with the least—as always. Her reunion with on-screen daughter Seyfried, during which they sing “My Love, My Life,” will surely leave the entire audience in tears.

But Streep’s absence allows for an effortless performance from “Cinderella” actress Lily James as her younger incarnation. The bulk of the musical numbers fall on her, but she delivers each one with grace and charisma. Her three love interests—Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan and Jeremy Irvine (as young Harry, Bill and Sam, respectively)—are equally charming. James and Skinner’s “Waterloo” sequence is particularly memorable, though her duets with Dylan (“Why Did It Have to Be Me?”) and Irvine (“Knowing Me, Knowing You”) are also great.

As if the film couldn’t get any bigger, there’s also an appearance from Cher, who plays Donna’s estranged mother, Ruby. Like her on-screen daughter, Cher’s screentime is limited, but her brief appearance allows her to have one killer performance of “Fernando” with Andy Garcia.

But the truly standout sequences of “Here We Go Again” are, of course, nostalgic nods to its predecessor. As soon as you hear the iconic piano roll of “Dancing Queen”—which marks the on-screen reunion of the original cast, sans Streep—it will be impossible to avoid dancing in your seat. Similarly, the closing sequence of “Super Trouper” heavily relies on the unity of the entire cast to deliver one epic finale for the books.

Though “Here We Go Again” occasionally feels weighed down by shifting its focus to its persistently recurrent flashbacks, the outstanding cast and infectious music ultimately make it an irresistibly fun thrill ride thoroughly worth the decade-long wait. In the words of Streep, there is an “indescribable joy” to “Mamma Mia!” that outweighs even the most significant of its flaws. This is a film that strives to make viewers leave the theater happy, and as a devoted fan myself, I’d say it more than delivers on that promise.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars