Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is exactly the movie experience you’d imagine it is. If you found yourself loving the original, this perfectly named sequel delivers a worthy follow up. If the bright colors and boisterous music didn’t appeal to you the first time around, this isn’t the musical for you. The first film took the box office by storm ten years ago, and now… Here we go again!
Following the example of other esteemed sequel The Godfather Part II, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is both a prequel and a sequel. Picking up five years after the events of the original story, Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie is following in the footsteps of her mother, Donna, and running the hotel on their island getaway. But when Sophie struggles with the realities of making her mother’s dreams come true, a cavalry of familiar faces comes through to offer support and share with her Donna’s own journey of self discovery from many years ago. Everyone is back for the party, with Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård returning to their fatherly roles and Christine Baranski and Julie Walters delighting once again with scene stealing comedy as Donna’s Dynamo girlfriends. Even Dominic Cooper is back to reprise his role as Sophie’s partner, Sky. It’s truly a treat seeing everyone back in their respective roles, and even in her limited appearance, Meryl Streep is a treasure who makes the most of her time, offering quite the emotional impact.
But as much fun as it is to see the old gang back together, it’s some of the new faces that truly shine. Andy Garcia’s mysterious hotel manager, Fernando, offers warmth and guidance early on and when Cher finally makes her long awaited entrance she reminds everyone that she’s Cher, a timeless megastar who can do just about anything. While all of the younger versions of the already established characters entertain to various degrees of success, the true star of the show is Lily James who shares the role of Donna with Streep and finds a way to not only honor Streep’s previous portrayal but also make the role entirely her own. Delivering warmth, strength, tenacity, fragility and passion from one scene to the next, James’ performance makes watching Donna’s already well known story genuinely captivating. And just as importantly, she can really sing!
As much as this film captures the essence of the original story, Here We Go Again does offer something different this time around. To the film’s credit, this isn’t an instance of story serving music but the music serving the story. While the first film had an air of excitement and mystery, this movie doesn’t shy away from it’s serious or somber moments. These are characters who have experienced heartbreak and loss and have evolved because of them. For a sequel that most people probably weren’t clamoring for, it more than justifies it’s existence by propelling the story in a satisfying and meaningful way.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is an unapologetic sequel that knows exactly the kind of movie it is and revels in that kind of understanding. It wonderfully manages to expand on the legacy of the original in a way that doesn’t wholly feel like a retread. Even though there are some repeated songs from the first film, Here We Go Again feels unique enough to stand apart from it’s predecessor while also naturally continuing the path set forward ten years ago. And if this film finds the same level of success that the first movie did, I’m all ABBAout coming back for a third film down the line.