It’s now ten years on from the unpredicted global box office phenomenon of Mamma Mia!, a Marmite A-list movie musical adaption of the beloved theatre production that simultaneously broke ticket and DVD sales alike (thanks to its 29-week cinema run and countless sing-along screenings). We now return to the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi for another jubilant round of high octane ABBA-fuelled hijinks.
The story, again, is pretty straightforward. Setting up for the grand relaunch of her mother’s taverna Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is frantically organising last-minute flourishes for her meticulously planned opening night celebrations. The controlled chaos is soon stifled when a trans-Atlantic Skye (Dominic Cooper) imparts information that leaves a shaken Sophie seeking reassuring wisdom from her mum’s life long besties, Rosie and Tanya (an irresistible double act from Julie Walters and Christine Baranski).
Now finding herself facing many of the same tribulations her mother eventually overcame, Sophie learns about the infamous 1979 love triangle that resulted in today’s bumper variety pack of fathers (the first film can give you background on them!). And that’s where the film takes us back to.
Donna’s youthful sun-kissed European escapades are glowingly captured by a sprightly hippie performance from Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver), whose impressive vocal pipes inject fervour into a selection of lesser known ABBA hits (When I Kissed The Teacher, Andante, Andante). Throughout the intertwined flashback sequences (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again technically serves as a sequel and prequel), the original A-list cast’s younger selves are convincingly portrayed by Alexa Davies (Rosie), Jessica Keenan Wynn (Tanya), Jeremy Irvine (Sam), Josh Dylan (Bill) and Hugh Skinner (Harry). All of whom eerily manage to mimic their older counterparts’ mannerisms.
Director and writer Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) strips away the at times stagey feel of its predecessor’s visual, opting for sweeping camera movements that bolster the dream-like quality and fluidity during big set dance numbers (with a humorous restaurant-based Waterloo routine and raucous sea ferry Dancing Queen sequence being notable examples). Richard Curtis’ screenplay fingerprints are sporadically glimpsed throughout with flashes of on the nose adult humour and spiky one liners.
Omid Djalili provides a chucklesome cameo as a Greek immigration officer who has strong opinions on the lengths of people’s hair which offers a comic elevation in one of the film’s few emotionally charged moments.
Streep’s Shakespearian rendition of Abba’s frothy Scandi-pop numbers are sorely lacking compared to the original, thanks in part due other filming commitments. However, picking up the ballad baton is Cher (who dons an enviable selection of wigs). At 72 and only three years older than Streep, Cher is questionably playing Donna’s mother Ruby Sheridan, but all is swiftly absolved in the Mamma Mia universe, for as soon as Cher belts out her striking interpretation of Fernando to an infatuated Andy Garcia all such misgivings quickly melt away.
The film’s island setting lacks the postcard lusciousness of the original, making the set pieces jarringly noticeable at times (this is apparently due to a cost-cutting location move from Greece to Croatia). Despite its forgivable shortcomings though (an at times barely there plot), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again once again harnesses the undeniable power of music, the carefree weightlessness of temporarily forgetting any troubles whilst using melody and lyrics to explore a variation of conflicting emotions. It’s enormous fun.
A gleefully charming and welcomingly opened arms reunion that will delight fans in the same way as seeing your favourite school teachers perform end of year panto together, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again will have you reaching for the nearest pair of dungarees and power platforms boots.
The feelgood film of the year, my my how can I resist ya…