A year after the death of her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) takes it upon herself to rebuild the island hotel to her memory with the support of her three fathers Sam, Harry and Bill (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard). Also along for the ride are Aunt Tanya and Rosie (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters). While preparations continue we learn more about the younger, free-spirited Donna (Lilly James) and her fated journey to the Greece meeting the young Sam, Harry and Bill (Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan) along the way.
Having not seen the first Mamma Mia until recently, it felt like the high school edition of Wonderland thrown in a washing machine: a bunch of jocks and cheerleaders with no sense of logic where development is crying for help. This is the 10 year reunion. And if anyone jumps to the conclusion that I don’t like musical because I’m a guy, think again. There are a number of great musicals that push the limit of what the genre is capable of. Just look at the Disney Renaissance and other greats like Little Shop of Horrors and Sound of Music. The soundtracks are organically original and progress the story. But unlike those traditions, jukebox musicals put more emphasis on the soundtrack before the story and characters. If so this definitely would’ve benefited from a theatrical sing-a-long release for the fans to distract from the numbers that halt the story in its tracks. To quote Steve Martin from Planes, Trains and Automobiles when they pop out of the blue, Have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener. But to be fair the more grounded reality does bring more weight to the emotional moments for both the past and present. At least half the songs are connected to showing the drama and sorrow when someone is alone or trying to support another in a time of grief. It’s a small touch that goes a long way right down to the sweet and heartfelt ending.
However what begs the question in this party is why is it popular to cast non-singing talent in musicals? Particularly when their lungs require a Broadway touch to elevate the situation? Young or old, there are a few rotten apples in the choir that spoil the lime light on Lilly James and Amanda Seyfried’s golden vocals. Thank goodness Brosnan is restrained to only a few lyrics this time around. If it’s not the rusted iron lungs from the supporting cast, it’s the corny choreography that turns this into kitchen karaoke night even with the glowing sunset hovering above a blue desert. In mixing young and old cast members, the more complex dance moves can’t go all out in the group montages. As bad as Greatest Showman was it had some professional dancing when showcasing the circus troupe.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is pretty much summed up in those last four words. I’m not part of the demographic that this is marketed for and only my time was wasted. As a non-fan I’d definitely see this again over the original for connecting more Abba songs to the story, characters and better sense of reality. But only if someone kidnaps me at gunpoint. Because as chick flicks go this year’s Book Club was a bigger step in a grounded direction for the genre. On the other hand if you’re a die hard follower of the previous film, this is practically gift-wrapped with a cherry on top for you. And to all the dudes who are dragged to this by their significant other, thoughts and prayers are with you on the way in.
Pros: more reality, sweet ending, standout vocals
Cons: pointless musical numbers, corny choreography, mediocre non-singers
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