With Hollywood’s output becoming progressively more based upon sequels and franchises, this summer’s release slate looks fairly bland. But one film towers above them all as the ultimate summer blockbuster. No not The Incredibles 2, but Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’s undeniably uplifting core, engaging narrative, banging soundtrack, with an emotional kick, creates a rewatchable hug of a summer film.
Taking place 5 years after 2008’s iconic Mamma Mia!, Sophie is preparing to re-open the Hotel Bella-Donna in her mother’s absence; which makes her return to memories of her mother’s young adventures, crossing paths with Bill, Harry, and Sam. These two strands are skillfully edited together to evoke the parallels between Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) & Young Donna’s (Lily James) stories. By being able to start afresh on the story, unfortunately visibly limited by the schedules of certain cast members, the songs actually help forward the two narratives and by the time we get to the extraordinarily iconic credits sequence, it’s quite a satisfying arc. The split-time structure also plays to the strengths of the younger actors who are fitter, funnier and far better singers; although some of the older cast (especially Colin Firth) feel more like set-dressing than fleshed out parts.
‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’s undeniably uplifting core, engaging narrative, banging soundtrack, with an emotional kick, creates a rewatchable hug of a summer film’
Although Mamma Mia is technically a musical, some of the songs feel more like very high class karaoke, compared to the technically challenging songs we’re used to with contemporary musicals like Hamilton. But the cheeky, slightly ridiculous way the songs are placed helps to maintain pace, rather than resorting to the jarring narrative-heavy songs some musicals are full of. On top of which, even more ABBA is crammed in (lucky us!) by using instrumental versions for score, and as background music. What’s more is, the reworkings of ABBA classics like ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ are undeniable bangers. And then there are the renditions of lesser known songs like ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ and ‘Why Did it Have to Be Me’, adding to the characteristic poppiness which keeps fans (or maybe just me?) consistently returning to the soundtrack.
One reason why the first Mamma Mia! is so much fun is because it is, besides the fab songs & flimsy narrative, just a bit rubbish. It’s just laughably ludicrous in places – from the bewildering camera movements, the overuse of Pierce Brosnan’s awful singing, to the glaring lack of self awareness. Because the sequel is just objectively better, you can enjoy the journey more. The songs are stronger and used properly, there’s less talking-singing (besides the bewildering spoken-word-esque rendition of ‘Angeleyes’), and tonnes more tongue in cheek, self deprecating humour. Also it benefits from having a genuinely funny script, with Tanya (Christine Baranski & Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Julie Walters & Alexa Davies) stealing the lion’s share of the laughs. That’s not to say there aren’t daft moments- from the jarring transition (in an otherwise enthralling emotional climax) using a Christening Font, or the bewildering choreography during ‘One of Us’ (“Dominic pour the coffee, but like in a really sad way”).
‘Because the sequel is just objectively better, you can enjoy the journey more. The songs are stronger and used properly, there’s less talking-singing and tonnes more tongue in cheek, self deprecating humour’
The jewel in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!’s crown is undeniably Fernando. Inexplicably one of the singles released before the film hit cinemas, Cher bolting out ABBA’s sombre single in a way that only Cher could make literally iconic. Everything about the whole sequence is slightly bewildering: its seeding through the entirety of the film by no one ever referring to Senor Cienfuegos by his first name, the really dramatic framing and editing of the two characters making eye contact, the mystery around what happens to the massive torch which disappears when Andy Garcia ‘needs’ his hands free for singing… And yet despite the objective ridiculousness of the two tangoing together, I can’t help but enjoy (and even cry at) the sequence.
Although its existence is probably just a product of Hollywood cynicism because its predecessor made Money Money Money, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! doesn’t feel like it was just made for the sake of it. And as a result I Have a Dream that the Mamma Mia Extended Universe gets greenlit by Universal and goes On and On and On – there are so many unanswered questions after all! What else did Harry do with his Last Summer? What happened during Cher’s years in Vegas as a Dancing Queen? Does Donna’s Mother Know who her father is? When All is Said and Done, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! s just pure fun, radiating good vibes into a world which sorely needs them. All I can say is, Gimme Gimme Gimme a third film soon.