Director: Ol Parker
Writer: Ol Parker, Richard Curtis, Catherine Johnson
Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan
Sophie (Seyfried) plans to open her late mother’s hotel, but struggles due to her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) and two of her three dads being unable to attend and that she is also pregnant. Meanwhile, we also learn of how her mother Donna (James) first arrived on the island in 1979 and met Sophie’s three possible fathers.
Most cinematic remakes of stage musicals are slightly cynical, and unashamedly cheesy and schmaltzy romps that are best not analysed too deeply, as they tend to be a wafer-thin narrative that fits around the songs used and just best accepted for what they are. 2008’s Mamma Mia was admittedly one of the better adaptations, and was just one of those films that is best to be accepted for what it is and its flaws, clichés and cheesiness embraced. What of course also helped was its great cast and the fact it used Abba’s bulletproof and timeless pop songs.
Mamma Mia was also one of the more successful cinematic adaptions, and so perhaps a sequel was always going to happen. Well, it could be argued that there is a certain cynicism behind the existence of any mainstream film, and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is of course no exception in that it exists simply because of the success of its predecessor. However, the reasons for its existence aside, there is still the possibility for all involved to really make a good go of it, especially as this time it is an original narrative. Of course, this being a musical, there is an inevitable element of narrative contrivance to fit around the titles of the songs used (such as Andy Garcia’s character being called Fernando).
It has to be said, that very much to the surprise of myself (and I am sure many, many others) thanks to its writing, plotting, choice of songs, casting and direction, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is a vastly superior film to its predecessor and is both incredibly enjoyable and also emotionally involving. The plot and script feature a duel narrative that focuses on Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie opening her hotel and what happened to her mother when she tried to open the same hotel and also when she was pregnant with Sophie. Despite this sounding quite clunky, the two narratives work very well together being told simultaneously and this adds emotional depth. There are also elements to the dual plots that examine some universal and moving themes of parenthood and friendship that are genuinely moving.
There are of course plenty of plot contrivances, as well as a fair few issues with the timelines, but these are just about forgivable, while the choice of songs suggest that the actual plot took more of a priority as some of the more famous Abba songs are excluded and some lesser known ones are used, and they are all used perfectly for both the more emotional and euphoric, celebrational moments of the film. Whether it is one of the classics or a lesser known song, there is still no escaping the seemingly indestructible pop perfection of each song.
It is indeed a surprisingly strong script (co-written by Richard Curtis), with not only every song enhancing the narrative, but also the spoken dialogue often genuinely well-written with dialogue that is both pertinent in the film’s more moving moments, as well as sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Meanwhile the visuals are also very slick, with some stunningly choreographed moments and the camerawork and cinematography making the film feel genuinely cinematic.
There is this common theory that the more fun that was had making a film the less fun it is to watch, and while that certainly applies to a lot of films these days, I am also of the opinion that if the cast are having genuine fun, but also a true passion for the material they are saying (and in this case singing) it can be infectious, and this is very much the case with Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again; the cast are all having great fun, but it is also great fun to watch them.
The entire cast are all on great form, sharing superb chemistry, which helps to make their relationships and the various plot contrivances all the more forgivable. The new cast additions are all superb; Lily James is in quite a lot at the moment, but it is obvious from her very first scene why she was cast in this film; she brings an infectious enthusiasm to her character which is essential for us to believe in her character, while she also has a great singing voice. The rest of the new cast also do superb jobs in their roles, especially Jeremy Irvine, who ironically has already played a young Colin Firth previously, now is a young Pierce Brosnan and manages to capture Brosnan’s distinctive accent perfectly.
Yes, it may be littered with narrative contrivances, a fair few major timeline issues and perhaps may not linger long in the memory, but there is no escaping the infectiousness of the songs, and when watched even the most cynical filmgoer will struggle to not be moved and engaged by what is a wonderfully euphoric and at times genuinely moving film.
It certainly has its flaws, but Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again surpasses expectations and thanks to some great writing, direction, performances and song choices is a wonderfully entertaining and at times genuinely engaging cinematic experience.