Memories… It’s taken 10 years, but Mamma Mia! has finally brought all of its ABBAtastic musical charm back for another round. But will fans cry “My, my!” or “Why? Why?”
The first Mamma Mia!, based upon the crazy-successful, officially sanctioned musical, brought delirous waves of joy to cinemagoers of all ages who were in touch with their inner dag (which is a healthy thing to be). It was a phenomenon, bolstered by both a superb cast (even if many of them couldn’t sing – we’re looking at you, Pierce Brosnan, ‘SOS’ murderer!) and, of course, the incredible musical legacy of pop kings and queens ABBA.
So, can it be repeated? Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again weaves two tales – the origin story of how Donna met the three dads and, back in the now, her daughter Sophie’s quest to reopen the hotel and deal with her own impending arrival (please don’t cry “Spoiler!” at us, that fact is dropped in the official synopses).
Lily James stars as young Donna, and really is the shining star of the show. Alongside Jessica Keenan Wynn as the young Tanya and Alexa Davies as the young Rosie, their ability to have us believe that they’re earlier incarnations of Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters (who gets all of the best gags) goes beyond the similar haircuts. Like, how many of us keep the same ‘do for our entire lives?
Back in the present, almost all the faves from the first movie variously pop up, as does – oh like you hadn’t heard, and didn’t see the pic above – Cher, playing Sophie’s grandmother and adding some welcome professional vocals with her take on the Australian number one spot-crushing ‘Fernando’.
As you’d expect, that’s far from the only ABBA song to punctuate proceedings, and the songbook is plunged into deeply. While a handful are repeated, the majority of the A-list ABBA tracks made it into the first flick, so we get to partake in the B-list (if, indeed, you agree that ABBA had any B-list songs) such as ‘Kisses of Fire’, ‘My Love, My Life’ and ‘Hasta Mañana’ (or ‘Pasta Banana’ if you were silly like us as a kid – or you’re a Minion). Sadly ‘Bang a Boomerang’ still doesn’t get a guernsey…
The song content again varies between sudden story-related outbreaks and the odd big production number – the all-singing, all-dancing, all-boating ‘Dancing Queen’ being an undisputable highlight. The story injections generally feel more forced than the original though, and sometimes there’s too much talk and not enough song – as some other rather successful Swedes, Roxette, once wisely advised, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”.
This occasional wobbliness of the story is intriguing, for there are some impressive writing types on-board. With Richard Four Weddings and a Funeral Curtis and Ol The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Parker (who also directs) we expected something much tighter, as certain scenes do drag on.
All of that being said, if you ABBA-solutely worshipped at the altar of the original Mamma Mia! then you now have more to adore, and you’re sure to love this merry and bright spectacular more than that day you got Arrival on cassette when you were a kid. OK, maybe not quite that much…
In cinemas: July 19, 2018
Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Ol Parker
Try our ABBA/Mamma Mia! crossword here.