Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

While the original Mamma Mia! movie may have captured audiences’ hearts 10 years ago, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again sparkles even brighter, bringing audiences on an even more nuanced and exciting journey through the past, present, and into the future. Some may say the new film comes off as an afterthought or another way for the film industry to rope in audiences’ dollars by squeezing out another sub-par movie. Yet honestly, can we ask for anything more in a summer movie than a beautiful journey through the life of a young, free-spirited girl? I say no. It certainly stole my heart as my favorite movie of this summer.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again brings us back to 1979, when Donna Sheridan graduates from college alongside her two best friends, Rosie and Tanya, and has a dream of exploring the world. As the audience watches Donna’s past experiences take place, we are flipped back and forth between the past and present, where Donna’s daughter, Sophie, is planning an event at her mother’s hotel, Hotel Bella Donna, on the fictional Grecian island of Kalokairi. The film continues to parallel Donna’s journey through adulthood alongside Sophie’s movement through the upkeep of the recently-renovated hotel and ultimate news of her pregnancy.

Due to the frequent flashbacks from the past to the future and vice-versa, several new characters and actors have been included in the film, which is part of what makes this film much more enjoyable and interesting than the first one. First, there is Lily James, who plays the young Donna Sheridan. James was a perfect addition to the movie, and even more of the embodiment of Donna Sheridan than Meryl Streep previously was. As Donna travels from England and Paris to Greece, the audience is presented with the younger versions of the three possible fathers of Sophie: Harry, Bill, and Sam. After all, who doesn’t love a good summer romance love triangle? And into the present time, we have the addition of Cher as Sophie’s grandmother and Andy Garcia as the Hotel Bella Donna manager.

However, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is not complete without the spirit of ABBA, 70’s spunk, and a ton of dancing on boats and mindlessly frolicking around in Mediterranean paradise. The musical renditions featured in the second film are, yet again, much more entertaining than the original. The quality of the singing is much improved, in part due to the addition of Lily James, who sings most of the memorable songs like, “Mamma Mia,” “Andante, Andante,” “Name of the Game,” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Even the dancing routines are much more dynamic and clever, most notably in the rendition of “Waterloo.” In this musical number, young Donna and Harry perform in a charming Napoleon-themed French restaurant, complete with a baguette sword fight to top off the routine.

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And yes, many of these songs were also present in the previous movie, but there are even more emotional ups and downs in this version’s duration. The playfulness of “Waterloo” and “Why Did It Have to Be Me?” alongside the young Bill Anderson slowly transitions to Donna’s eventual pregnancy, where the bond of mother and daughter comes to the forefront with Sophie singing, “I’ve Been Waiting for You.” Mothers everywhere are sure to become emotional wrecks at the presentation of this song. Finally, we end with more fabulous and glamorous performances by Cher, ending us on a high note. You will undoubtedly be humming ABBA songs for a long, long time.

Ultimately, where the first film seemed to be on the edge of becoming too cliché, this sequel  safely stays on the side of being charming, clever, and enjoyable. This is accomplished through the past and present parallels, which allowed for the addition of more actors and actresses to expand on the lives of characters, as well as the improved musical performances, which created a much more emotional connection within the film. It allowed the audience to feel truly within the world of Donna Sheridan and the people who were important in her life. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again inspires every girl to live her dream and chart her own path by remembering, at least once in a while, to embrace spontaneity and optimism and to sprinkle everything with a bit of fun.

Marla DiPotoComment