The 2008 jukebox musical film 'Mamma Mia!' – like the live show it's based on – delivered a great storyline backed by a soundtrack of the greatest hits by supergroup ABBA... So is this jukebox musical's sequel any good?
The short answer is yes, but 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' doesn't go off without a hitch.
For starters, arguably the greatest and most recognisable ABBA songs have already been used in round one: 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme', 'Mamma Mia', 'Voulez-Vous', 'Does Your Mother Know' and 'The Winner Takes It All' to name just a few. Creating a sequel to a jukebox musical means you run the risk of delivering a film that doesn't quite hit the high notes of its predecessor and it's a shame to say that's a little bit the case here.
The beauty of ABBA’s discography as proven by this film, however, is that its quality and breadth is enough to be spread across two productions with a fairly successful end result.
‘My Love, My Life’ is a genuinely moving trio performance between Amanda Seyfried (Sophie), Lily James (young Donna) and Meryl Streep (Donna) which manages to capture the real essence of a mother-daughter relationship just as well as ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ did.
'When I Kissed The Teacher' explodes in camp, choreographic splendour. 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' gets the emotional and contemplative filmic treatment it deserves.
The point is, the soundtrack here isn't bad... It's just not as good as the original, which is to be expected. Luckily, among other songs, we also get a gorgeous re-hash of 'Dancing Queen' from a majority of the cast and it's as ethereal and shimmering as ever.
As far as the plot goes, 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' isn't breaking any new ground. There's nothing incredible about where the story goes from where it left off. Thankfully however, Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Dominic Cooper, Julie Waters and Christine Baranski all make hugely welcome returns and truly make it feel like it hasn't been ten years since we saw them last.
Sidenote: Pierce Brosnan doesn't sing as much here. This may come as welcome news for most.
This cast really is great. Lily James does a beautiful job at playing a young Donna joined by her two college friends and bandmates The Dynamos, Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies). Equally well-cast are Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan as young Sam, Harry and Bill respectively. It's good to see Donna's first experiences with all three of them in proper detail.
And now, let's not forget the woman making her first on-screen film role in eight years and first alongside Meryl Streep since 'Silkwood' (1983)... Straight up icon Cher absolutely steals the show in every possible way. From the first glimpse of her heels as she steps out of a helicopter to her completely brilliant and hysterical performance of 'Fernando', she doesn't disappoint. It's almost certain that die-hard fans will revel in her short appearance and genuinely enjoy what she brings to this production.
The absence of Meryl Streep's Donna for 95 per cent of the film isn't a major drawback in hindsight but it would be a lie to say that her few moments on screen aren't in fact a few of the highlights of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'. Her talent is undeniable and her ability to make such an impact from such little screen-time is incomparable.
'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' gets away with its simplistic plot and minimised musical impact by camping up what it uses of ABBA's discography in that familiarly cheesy, comedic way. It treats us to stellar performances from familiar and fresh faces like Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep and Lily James with a much-needed scene-stealing appearance from the one and only Cher.