Ellie: The original “Mamma Mia!” was based on the Broadway musical of the same name, and varied only slightly from the plot written for stage, which was one of its more criticized aspects. The plot simply didn’t translate cohesively to screen.
“Here We Go Again” is a completely original story, the architect of which is none other than Richard Curtis, the king of romantic comedies. Known for power-hits “Love, Actually” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” among many others, Curtis has a knack for creating a world of characters with depth and complexity that the audience loves.
Curtis, who also executive produces the film, teamed up with writer and director Ol Parker to create something that worked incredibly well. Not only did this sequel seamlessly pick up where the first movie left off, it provided a brand new, very entertaining story meant for TV and movie screens.
Like the first movie, the visual component of “Here We Go Again” is stunning. Set in seaside Greece, featuring every shade of blue imaginable, the location shooting alone will make you feel like you’re on vacation. The flashback timeline also brought back the ’70s style so closely associated with ABBA’s music, and had a wonderful nostalgic appeal.
Bre: First of all, we have to address the elephant in the room: Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, is dead. Her daughter, Sophie (played by Amanda Seyfried), is reviving the rundown hotel her mother created and has renamed it the Bella Donna to honor her mother’s legacy.
Within the first few minutes of the movie, the audience is subjected to an odd flashback scene in which Lily James plays a young Donna at her 1979 graduation from Oxford University as the valedictorian of her class. When she goes to speak in front of her peers, she breaks out into a song, and her gal pals and eventually her entire class join in on the fun.
At first, I was pretty unsure about how the rest of the movie would hold up to its predecessor after killing Donna off between the first and second movie. The first few flashbacks seemed jumpy and the direction the movie was taking was unclear, but after the first 20 minutes, and a few songs, the plotline becomes clearer — this is a movie about a mother and a daughter finding their way to one another through songs and shared experiences.
Things We Liked
Ellie: Lily James. James has been on the rise for a while now, cementing her A-list status after her brilliant supporting effort in “The Darkest Hour.” In “Mamma Mia,” James shows her versatility as a comedic and joyful performer, captivating and charming her audience as well as her would-be suitors in the movie.
Ellie: Also, Cher. Wow, this was the perfect casting choice. I couldn’t name one other option for the reluctant, glamorous grandmother of Sophie. Her rendition of “Fernando” was the best I’ve ever heard.
While there are a number of fun, memorable scenes, the movie really turns it on in the final third. The flashback storyline concludes with the emotional birth of Sophie, showing young Donna falling immediately in love with her new baby girl while singing ABBA power ballad “I’ve Been Waiting for You.”
In present day, Sophie has had a baby of her own, and the whole crew of family and friends return to the beautiful church on the hill for the baptism. Streep makes her cameo here, in a deeply emotional scene in which she appears to her daughter in the church, letting her know she is always there, though she can’t be seen. The two sing “My Love, My Life.” It’s powerful, the songs are excellent, and you’ll need some tissues. Plus: best finale to a movie I’ve maybe ever seen.
Things We Didn’t Like
Bre: The male supporting actors in this movie cannot sing. At one point, Pierce Brosnan — who looks as hot as ever — has (what’s supposed to be) an emotional, heart-wrenching solo in which he mourns the loss of his one true love, Donna. It’s a sweet scene, but while this was happening, everyone in the theater started cracking up because his voice is, well, not great.
Ellie: I agree that all three middle-aged versions of the men, played by powerhouse superstars Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and Stellan Skarsgård, are not at all right for musical theater. I also think that is kind of the point.
Brosnan’s solo and attempt at melodrama in the setting of an ABBA musical is actually hilarious: “You used to be Bond!” But I firmly believe this to be intentional. Firth is so clearly having a ball absolutely not being able to sing or dance, that you cannot help but laugh out loud at him. By the end of the movie, with all three having fully given up on any shred of dignity, you simply can’t help how much you love them. Special mention to Andy Garcia for being in this movie. I don’t get it, but I loved it.
Bre: Also, the entire premise of “Mamma Mia” is that Streep’s character, Donna, has no idea which one of the three men she shagged is the father of her child. This is entirely possible if she had sex with all of them within a matter of days or weeks, at the most. But the timeline established in the sequel makes it seem like there was more time than that between each guy she sleeps with, which would make identifying the father relatively easy.
Ellie and I aren’t the only ones to have noticed how bonkers the timeline is. You have to read this hilarious rundown on all of the timeline inconsistencies by Caroline Siede over at the AV Club. But alas, a charming musical does not need to make perfect sense in order to be enjoyed. And I am not a “Mamma Mia” truther.
Ellie: Not to totally nitpick a perfectly fun movie that truly does not need to explain itself, but there is a huge issue with the timeline within the story that I simply have to address. The title card in the first flashback scene with young Donna said “1979,” the year she graduated from college. After graduation, she hugged her friends goodbye and set off to explore the world.
At her first stop, in Paris, she met one of the three would be baby-daddies, and after a one-night stand, she heads off to Greece, where she meets the other two. All of this seemed to happen within a short amount of time, so it is reasonable to assume that less than a year elapsed between her graduation her discovery of her pregnancy. This would mean that the birth year of her daughter was 1980.
Flash forward to present day, and Sophie states her age as 25. Well, okay, maybe this sequel was supposed to take place in 2005, except that many characters have iPhone Xs, meaning it is at least 2017, making Sophie more like 37. Only my fun-sapping insistence on consistency would notice something so minor, and I know 25 sounds a lot cuter than 37, but c’mon guys!
Bottom Line: Take your friends and family to see this delightful sequel.