Sunday 13 October 2019

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – but just how does the sequel shape up?

Boasting Abba hits, an all-star cast and sun-soaked scenes .. Mamma Mia! is back.

Amanda Seyfried returns for a singing spectacular in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal Pictures)
Amanda Seyfried returns for a singing spectacular in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal Pictures)

By Damon Smith, Press Association

It’s time to dust off the bell-bottoms and denim dungarees and set sail for the idyllic Greek island of Kalokairi as the singing spectacular Mamma Mia! returns.

An all-star cast is back for the sequel titled Here We Go Again – but how does it compare with its 2008 predecessor?

Here’s what Press Association film critic Damon Smith thought of it:

Who is in the cast?

The ensemble is impressive, with the notable addition of Cher. The cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Lily James, Dominic Cooper, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, and this instalment is directed by Ol Parker.

Is it a singing sensation?

I had a dream that writer-director Ol Parker’s sequel to the feel-great Abba jukebox musical Mamma Mia! would recapture the giddy abandon of the first film, which smashed box office records in the summer of 2008 and had me dancing with fellow audience members at my local multiplex.

Christine Baranski, Judy Craymer, Cher, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Lily James attending the premiere of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again at the Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, London (Ian West/PA)

But Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again doesn’t quite achieve the same intoxicating sense of nostalgia-drenched delirium.

In a sing-off with The Great Showman, this bittersweet return to the sun-kissed Greek island of Kalokairi comes off second best to the razzle dazzle of Hugh Jackman and his kaleidoscopic circus of melodic misfits.

However, when all is said and done, Parker’s film is hard-wired to entertain, with a comforting recipe of glossy song and dance numbers, saucy humour, simmering romance and Oscar winner Meryl Streep ripping the hearts out of chests as she mines the raw emotion of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’s lyrics.

The first film gleefully plundered 20 sparkling gems from the Abba songbook, including a rousing full cast rendition of Waterloo over the end credits bedecked in straining spandex and sequins.

Considerably fewer classics remain for Parker to tap for the second picture, including a sweet, heartfelt The Name Of The Game (cut from the original Mamma Mia!) and duets of One Of Us and Knowing Me, Knowing You staged as tear-stained break-ups.

Consequently, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again relies on the Swedish pop group’s lesser known album tracks to reflect characters’ whirling emotions, interspersed with euphoric reprises of Dancing Queen, Super Trouper and the title track.

Moonstruck by Cher… 

The addition of Cher as Streep’s impeccably coiffed mother is a masterstroke.

Cher (© Universal Pictures)

From the moment we hear the thrum of the chart-topping diva’s private helicopter approaching Kalokairi, Parker’s film cranks up the volume on our pleasure to 11 and blows the roof off the taverna with her rapturous interpretation of Fernando with fellow newcomer Andy Garcia.

A fitting finale

The final 15-20 minutes, when the full cast is reunited on the island idyll, are on the money, money, money.

The sequel’s perfunctory narrative finds Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) nervously preparing for the grand opening of Hotel Bella Donna, aided by suave manager Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia) and her architect father Sam (Pierce Brosnan).

Her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) will miss the festivities because he is working in New York and her two remaining fathers, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), are stuck in Tokyo and Stockholm respectively.

Thankfully, her mother’s best friends, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), are on hand to allay Sophie’s nerves.

They encourage Sophie to look to the past for courage.

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Cue flashbacks to the young Donna (Lily James) embarking on her lusty Mediterranean odyssey via Paris.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again lays all of its Abba love on us with platform heels, tongue-in-cheek humour and joy-infused musical performances choreographed to perfection by Anthony Van Laast.

Fragmented chronology hampers dramatic momentum but audiences who loved the first film won’t care.

They will be gleefully chanting I do, I do, I do, I do, I do to Parker’s sequel.

Rating: 7.5/10

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is released in cinemas on July 20.

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