Five years after the events of ‘Mamma Mia!’, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) eagerly prepares for the grand re-opening of the hotel her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) slaved over for years. At the same time, we see flashbacks to Donna’s past and learn of how she came to discover the Greek island of Kalokairi. We also see how she met Sophie’s dads, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Harry (Colin Firth).
This highly anticipated sequel comes a decade after the first ‘Mamma Mia!’ and sees the return of all major cast members including Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgard, Streep (albeit in a much smaller role), Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. New additions include Andy Garcia, Lily James as a younger version of Donna, and Cher, playing Donna’s mother (in spite of being only three years older than Streep in reality).
Seamlessly cutting between past and present, the original cast bring an infectious, eager joy in their roles. The new additions are all charming with James, Jessica Keenan Wynn (young Baranski) and Alexa Davies (young Walters) proving especially talented at embodying the younger versions of characters we already love. James has the particularly tough task of taking the reins from Meryl Streep, and her flair in doing so establishes, as if we didn’t already know it, that she truly is a star.
Regarding the playlist, as there were fears that there aren’t enough recognisable ABBA songs to warrant another film, it’s worth noting that there are a few repeats of songs from the first ‘Mamma Mia!’, since that film did pick all the classics. However, you’d be surprised at how many great ABBA tunes that weren’t in the first one get a chance to shine here. Moreover, the songs that are repeated from the original movie are reinterpreted so as to feel fresh. If one were to pick a standout number, it’s safe to say that when Cher performs, the world stops spinning.
Some of the performances – ‘Waterloo’ stands out in particular, with young Harry (Hugh Skinner) really giving it socks, God bless him – do cross the line from corny into cringe-worthy. Some viewers will be annoyed by the fact that the film changes facts established in the first film (though of course accuracy and realism has never really been a priority for musicals), and the ending is problematic for reasons that one can’t say for fear of spoilers. Still, the film will charm even disinterested audiences because it is so jam-packed with joy, laughter and infectiously catchy music.
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is cheesy, predictable, completely lacking in any subtlety, and an absolute delight. One leaves the cinema beaming and I defy any audience member to disagree that it is the feel-good experience of the summer.