It is a testament to the liveliness and fun, but also the sense of the unforgettable, that makes ABBA’s songs objectively so good. You could play ABBA at any occasion, blast it over any visual accompaniment and people would be thrilled. Play ABBA Gold over Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer or The Road or any of Lars von Trier’s most difficult or off-putting, headline-baiting moments of cheerlessness and people would still skip out of the cinema with smiles on their faces.
The first, and you can scarcely believe there have been multiple, Mamma Mia! was an almost unbelievably dreadful piece of ear-splitting fluff elevated slightly by the presence of excellent pop. The plot was non-existent and it was a genuinely terrifying sight to see otherwise credible actors covering ABBA songs in the manner of a club singer desperately trying to entertain a dwindling audience after consuming twelve pints of Tartan.
The sequel unfolds in much the same fashion as the first, watching more like a greatest hits mix tape than an actual story, but this time mashing together seminal pop classic with two largely irrelevant nods in the general direction of a narrative. This time round, duel plotlines see a young Donna played by Lily James escaping the formality of Oxford in search of meaning in the Greek islands, while her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), looks to realise her mother’s dream of reopening her hotel some twenty-odd years later.
The flimsy narratives exist only as mere skeletons open which to hang the organs and flesh of the songs, so, as with the first movie, there’s a sense of the ephemeral. It’s as if somebody thumbed through their collection of ABBA records and stubbornly decided that, come hell or high water, they’d make a movie out of them.
Unlike its predecessor though, there’s a welcome, and honestly much-needed, sense of knowing about the sequel with almost an entire Benny Andersson in cheek. Whereas Mamma Mia! seemed earnestly flawed, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again seems more capable and eager to laugh at itself. So, you get an even less flattering attempts at dancing from Firth, Brosnan and Skarsgard, plus the deployment of Cher and Andy Garcia in such an utterly hysterical fashion it seems to redefine the nature of camp itself.
It’s a movie that you can either scoff at, or enjoy with an unembarrassed sort of low-maintenance, unpretentious sense of joy. If your choice is the former then that’s not my problem. I know what I’d rather do.
Chris Banks | [rating=3]
Musical, Comedy, Romance | PG | UK | 20 July 2018 | Universal Pictures | Dir. Ol Parker| Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Lily James, Cher.