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Mama Mia! Here We Go Again Review - A Super Trouper

July 18, 2018

 

Welcome back to the magical island of Kalokairi, a sun-strewn rocky outcropping in the azure Aegean Sea, a land where people can only express themselves with the music of Sweden's most enduring musical group, ABBA. The sequel/prequel hybrid "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" arrives a decade after the bonkers filmed adaptation of the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" Vehicles for ABBA's songs, the films perfectly reflect the music: emotionally raw and unabashedly cheesy, wrapped in miles and miles of colorful fabric. 

 

This many ABBA songs requires quite a story into which to shoehorn the tunes, and "Mamma Mia!" tripled down on love lost and found with three spurned lovers, Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), Sam ( Pierce Brosnan) and Harry ( Colin Firth), returning to Kalokairi for the wedding of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who hoped to find her father. Now, she's accepted all three men as adopted dads, and she's reopening the hotel after her mother's death (yep, there's almost no Meryl Streep here). While she gives tours to visitors around the property, she reminisces about her mother's journey to the island, right out of Oxford. We get the part of the story previously only detailed in a journal, of young hippie Donna (Lily James) and her three wayward lovers.

 

                                                (Photo courtesy of: Universal)

 

There are many, many musical interludes, though it may be better to let those unfold onscreen in their own greatest-hits-and-B-sides time. (Suffice to say there be Waterloos, Dancing Queens, and Super Troupers, too). It also has the great Julie Walters and Christine Baranski returning as the grown Rosie and Tanya, respectively, and Andy Garcia as the Hotel Bella Donna’s manager Fernando Cienfuegos, a seemingly endless source of compliments and Panama hats. 

 

The direction (by Best Exotic Marigold Hotel screenwriter Ol Parker) is almost relentlessly sunny, and the whole thing — even the exterior scenes, shot largely in Croatia — has the scrubbed-clean Technicolor brightness of a 1950s film set. What helps keep the movie from drifting into diabetic shock is actress Lily James, best known as a doll-faced Georgia waitress (in Baby Driver), a rebellious Lady (on Downton Abbey), and a literal princess (in 2015’s live-action Cinderella).

 

                                               (Photo courtesy of: Universal)

 

Here, she has the unenviable task of slipping into a role invented onscreen by Meryl Streep, but she wears it so lightly, and with so much tart, fizzy sweetness, the camera and the story follow. Her Donna charms nearly everyone: men, goats, unsmiling Greek grandmothers. (Seyfried is nice too, though she’s mostly left to fret on the sidelines or bear witness to Baranski’s and Walters’ loopy back and forth; Streep’s turn this time is little more than glorified cameo).

 

                                               (Photo courtesy of: Universal)

 

And then, ladies and several gentlemen, there’s Cher. If she didn’t already exist, she’d probably have to be invented for the finale, a living manifestation of pop-culture fantasy in a creamy white pantsuit, singing “Fernando.” Her performance is a lot like the movie: winky, silly, simultaneously camp and sincere — and lit, in every last frame, like a dream. 

 

Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Review by Leanie Gari

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