Phyllida Lloyd broke new grounds back in 2008 when Mamma Mia! became the highest grossing movie ever directed by a woman. Whilst no critical success, with the help of its stellar cast and toe tapping ABBA anthems Mamma Mia! has become a worldwide musical sensation, with Patty Jenkins of Wonder Woman fame the only director since to beat Lloyd's box office record. Ten years later we return to the Greek island of Kalokairi with mostly familiar faces - as Sophie prepares for the grand reopening of the hotel she reflects back on her mother's life.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a fizzy glass of pop infused Prosecco, but the bubbles seem to have gone straight to its head. Lacking in just about every way compared to the original, as the title suggests Here We Go Again feels more like a chore than a warm, returning treat. Director Ol Parker brings none of his charm from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series, even current golden girl Lily James' free spirited, flower power interpretation of Donna is barely enough. More to the point Meryl Streep's absence casts a ginormous shadow over this flick and the feel good, "having the time of your life" vibe that was once there is no more.
As many speculated this sequel part prequel has very few ABBA hits to play with, being left with only the second string from the iconic Swedish band. Whilst the original was criticised for its story as well as the singing ability of its stars, when all else failed it burst into fabulous song and dance, moving seamlessly through the glittery musical numbers lined up in the ABBA jukebox. There is none of that here this time, not a single song stands out and returning favourites such as "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia" feel immensely watered down.
Without a doubt the biggest issue with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is failing to deliver the same energy as once before. Understandably Mamma Mia! took all of the best ABBA songs first time round, but it's obvious that "Waterloo" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" could've easily been given a bit more welly. As a result of Donna's death, the characters are all in a funk and this really effects the film, in addition nobody aside Julie Walters and Christine Baranski seems to be having fun. For a musical priding itself on the cheerfulness of everyone on screen as well as those watching this proves a considerable issue.
Amazingly even Cher and Andy Garcia's firework lit rendition of "Fernando" doesn't spark any excitement. If the first movie - in ABBA terms - is "The Winner Takes It All" then Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is "Slipping Through My Fingers". Even though Ol Parker delivers a more polished story as Donna's past life intertwines with modern day, he drains all the campy zest from the original leaving us a film with hardly any acceptable music to its name. It's trying so hard to simply entertain you - but with its dry humour and fantastically dull screenplay - it's less like a Dancing Queen and more like a circus monkey trying in vain to perform its tricks.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.