Here’s the thing about musicals: there isn’t a way to make a mediocre one. They’re either spectacular feats like Les Miserable or they’re not. There isn’t an in-between. Yet, leave it to Hollywood to make a sequel to one of last decades more squeamish attempts at a theatrical musical and hope it lives up to the hype.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again picks up 10 years after the last film. Sophie is facing the reopening of the hotel with all the bells and whistles her mother imagined. In the midst of it all, her angst over her mother and an uncertain future lead her to explore her mother’s past and the choices that led them to their island paradise.
While that seems a weighty premise, fear not, for the touchstones of her mother’s life and summer of love with Harry, Bill, and Sam are simply the lead in to the next musical number. While feeling more organic to the flow of the film and more spectacularly choreographed than its predecessor, the musical numbers are the reason we’re here and don’t you forget it.
All the actors here do a pleasant job of being game for the spectacle, with Lily James taking over as the star from Meryl Streep. Her vibrancy is on display here as much as it was in Cinderella and Downton Abbey. The duo of Christine Baranski and Julie Walters continue to be a treat to this franchise, as well as Pierce Brosnan and his wholly fish out of water aesthetic. At the end of the day, one cannot accuse any actors or the production team behind this film of not being committed fully to the film.
Having just watched the first film, there are some obvious plot points that don’t line up from one to the next, but we’ll forgive them for forgetting the first as much as we did. It isn’t until the last scene that we truly feel some emotional depth to the film, as Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep provide a moving duet and bring our characters full circle.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again treats us to the fantastic ABBA catalog and a roster of beautiful people in beautiful places. The addition of the actors playing young Sam, Bill, and Harry doesn’t go unappreciated by the largely female audience for this movie who will eat this up as they did the last. Let’s just hope our closing of the loop on our three generations of Sheridan women is also the closure of the book on this shallow series.