ABBA. No other word could instil such a feeling of nostalgia, of pure cheesy goodness, of 1970s pizazz. A group of legend, the Swedish quartet took Europe by storm, being featured on every wedding playlist since the dawn of time. When Mamma Mia came out in 2008, the world rediscovered their ABBA fever: how did they do a second time around?
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again follows the same familiar cast as before, only bringing in the backstory of free-spirited Donna after he untimely death just a year before. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), her daughter, has refurbished Donna’s hotel and is staging a huge re-opening party in honour of her mum. Aw!
However, as nice as that sounds… it doesn’t really happen. In fact, not a lot really happens. Granted, we learn a lot more about Donna, her two best friends and the three possible fathers of her child – the plot, however, is non-existent.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is basically just a glorified family party, where your aunts and uncles sing songs from their younger years – but also, Cher is there. Randomly enough, Cher plays Donna’s neglectful mother; strange considering that Meryl Streep is but three years younger than she is.
As far as characters go, there isn’t a lot of elaboration from the foundations (to put things strongly) established in the first movie. The characters haven’t really grown, they haven’t changed: they still all just act exactly the same. They’re all ridiculously chirpy and excitable, and tend to ignore elaborating on storylines in favour of singing loosely associated songs by a group that won Eurovision 44 years ago.
Yet, despite the fact that, on paper, this movie is atrocious: I liked it. Everyone in the cinema liked it. The majority of people I have spoken to have liked it, or even loved it, as time has gone on. What is it about cheesy 70s pop music and a lack of a plot that makes this film so popular?
One word: happiness. This movie is like pure sunshine but on crack. The most intense sunshine ever. You wouldn’t even know someone had died in it the way that they were going on. The end is the only part of the movie that is remotely sad. There were a few quietened sniffles in the cinema, where people, so high on the energy of ABBA, had been brought to a crashing low rather suddenly and with no apparent warning.
It’s not often that a movie makes me smile as much as Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! did. As soon as I saw those platform boots on that stage, I knew I was in for a good time. Not a minute of that movie are you not waiting for another classic tune to randomly start, and for Julie Walters to be involved in some hilarious way for no apparent reason.
Honestly, much like in the first movie, Julie Walters is the absolute shining star of this movie, just for her cake consumption alone. Despite being completely distraught by Donna’s death, she somehow even makes her grief funny – there is a reason why she is regarded as a national treasure.
The actors hired to play younger versions of Donna and the Dynamos and Sophie’s three dads were very good at playing convincing younger versions of themselves. Julie Walter’s youthful counterpart (Alexa Davies) was brilliant. From the off, you knew that she was playing Rosie. This is the same with Tanya’s teenage twin (Jessica Keenan Wynn), who gets Christine Baranski’s gold digger down to an art.
However, the elephant in the room is yet to be confronted, and her name is Cher. Cher plays Sophie’s Grandmother, whom she never sees and has decided to be involved in her life after Donna’s death. She appears in a helicopter about 15 minutes from the end, randomly rekindles a flame with the manager of Sophie’s hotel, says about three lines and sings a song. Granted, it’s more of a cameo than Meryl Streep gets; the difference being that one of the characters is dead, and one of them is very much alive.
This movie is completely bonkers, but in a very tame and controlled way. It’s basically a story about coping with loss, which it does touch on in a poignant and thoughtful way. However, there isn’t actually a storyline, ABBA comes on randomly every 10 minutes, and Benny Andersson is playing the piano. If one word could describe Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, it would be ‘random’. If one word could describe how this movie made the audience feel, it would be ‘happy’.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Come on, it was always going to be risky wasn’t it? Making a sequel, that no-one was asking for by the way, to one of the most successful movie musicals of all time. But the great thing about Mamma Mia 2 is that it looks like everyone was having an absolute blast whilst filming.
It’s let down by a lack of really well-known ABBA songs and a disappointingly minuscule performance from Meryl Streep, but what this film has in spades is fun, poignancy and laughter.
It also has one of the most tearjerking endings of a film in recent memory and with Cher on side too, you’re sure to have a blast. In this often miserable world we live in, thank goodness for films like Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2