Film Review – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Another week, another sequel. After Incredibles 2, 14 years after the original, the follow up to Mamma Mia! sweeps into cinemas, complete with sparkles, some ten years later. Although, if you’ve seen the original, you may struggle to distinguish between the two – assuming you even want to.

Part sequel, part prequel, it follows the same format as before – after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? – with the story built around as many Abba songs as you can squeeze into just under two hours. This reviewer wasn’t counting, but one every five minutes or so seemed to be the norm – and that’s a whole lotta Abba. It also means you shouldn’t get your hopes up as far as the narrative is concerned, despite Richard Curtis’s name on it. The first film was all about discovering who was the father of Donna’s (Meryl Streep) baby, Sophie – Stellan Skarsgard, Pierce Brosnan or Colin Firth. In this one, the now grown up Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is still in the dark but happily resigned to having three dads. After her mum’s demise, she’s done up the family hotel and is about to re-launch it with a big party. Cue invitations to the three dads, her mother’s best friends and a certain grandmother.

All of which means that nothing’s really changed in ten years. The location hasn’t, even though this wasn’t filmed in Greece, and while some of the songs are a decent enough fit, some aren’t: there’s one particular show stopper which caused the entire audience to dissolve into giggles – yet, significantly, there wasn’t a trace of malice in the mirth. The cast from the first film are all back, as well as some new faces. Last time round, one of the big talking points was Pierce Brosnan’s singing ability – or lack of it – and this time, as soon as he opened his mouth to let out a note, nervous laughter rippled around the cinema. His singing hasn’t improved, it’s true, but if he can’t hold a note, then Dominic Cooper, who plays Sophie’s boyfriend, can’t touch one. If it’s imaginable, he’s worse that Brosnan by a long way.  You have been warned.

So it’s a film with limitations – lots of them. But there is an upside. There’s plenty of laughs, some of the best ones coming from Omid Djalili as a Greek official at the ferry port who examines passport photographs far too closely. He’s only in two scenes but makes every single line work superbly. The locals in the tavern are a giggle as well. And there’s no denying that the audience was having a ball when this reviewer saw it. There’s a lot to love, despite that contrived storyline, the so-so acting and that all-pervasive whiff of cheese. The music, for one thing: it’s almost impossible not to tap your toes to it, at the very least. It’s old-fashionedly and unashamedly romantic and heart warming. But, perhaps most important of all, this is a film that knows it’s not great and doesn’t give a damn. It’s all about having a good time and, with its scenery, music and big set pieces, that’s exactly what it delivers.

This is no masterpiece – not by a long shot – but it’s not a disaster either and, while it doesn’t have quite as much glitter as you would expect, there’s more than enough to go round. You may shake your head at times, wince at others, but you’ll also find yourself laughing a lot and even thinking you have something in your eye once or twice. How can you resist it? You can’t …..

Freda Cooper | [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 and Cher.

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