Published Jul 23, 2018Ten years ago, the chaotically joyful fever dream Mamma Mia! dropped into theatergoers' laps like a present from that one Aunt who let you drink at her house in high school. After snooping through her mother Donna's (Meryl Streep) old diary, bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) discovers that the question of her paternity points to three men and, siren-style, lures them to the Greek island of Kalokairi for the most gorgeous, karaoke-themed episode of Maury ever. It's campy, ridiculous, and so much goddamn fun that the film became an instant classic, with a bestselling soundtrack and singalong screenings, where bottles of rosé are smuggled in under feather boas.
And now at long last, Here We Go Again. The sequel/prequel is divided between the grim present (spoilers!) where Donna is dead, Sophie's relationship is tanking and a storm is threatening the grand reopening of her mother's beloved hotel, and the glorious past where a young Donna (Lily James) whoops it up around Europe with a suitcase stuffed with Anthropologie frocks while a series of men try to remove said frocks within moments of meeting her.
James (Baby Driver) dances and sings rings round the boys like a lion bursting with life force, and basically carries the film — even if her Carefree White Girl vibes do grate occasionally. Newcomers Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies are sweet and sardonic as younger versions of Donna's BFFs Tanya and Rosie, while Julie Walters and Christine Baranski lounge in the present, drinking cocktails and saying things like "Be still my beating vagina!" whenever an Adonis approaches.
While more polished and choreographed, the film still maintains that aura of demented fun that made the original so popular. Who doesn't want to see Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård arriving Jack-and-Rose style on the prow of a yacht while extras bop goofily to "Dancing Queen" behind them? An asshole, that's who.
Opening the story up to the wider world allows for more creative choreography for the 18 songs (some quite un-self-consciously reprised from the first film), like a silly, farcical rendition of "Waterloo" in a Parisian café, or an Oxford graduation sent off the rails with a gender-swapped "When I Kissed the Teacher." In more somber moments, widower Sam's (Pierce Brosnan) quiet lament in "S.O.S" sets the audience up for the gut punch of "My Love, My Life" featuring a heavenly Streep. Sure, the majority of the numbers are mostly B-sides but…who cares? ABBA is ABBA.
With multitalented writer and director Ol Parker at the helm, and perhaps more importantly, Richard Curtis (king of the British rom-com) behind the scenes to balance out the cheesiness, Here We Go Again builds giddy energy and tension throughout until Cher arrives in a helicopter to blow the whole thing sky high with an ode to "Fernando." Pure bliss.
Order the film's soundtrack on double vinyl via MusicVaultz here. (Universal)