*This review is spoiler free.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a blast. The first Mamma Mia! came out ten years ago. When it premiered, critical response was underwhelming, and it remained in the shadow of The Dark Knight, which came out the same week. Did anyone want a Mamma Mia! 2? No. Did we need one? Absolutely.
The sequel picks up years later. Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, is dead (that’s literally in the first few minutes of the movie, I’m not spoiling anything), and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has rebuilt the hotel in her memory. The movie flashes back and forth between Sophie’s attempt in real time to reopen the hotel, and a young Donna’s (Lily James) days in the past as she meets each one of Sophie’s potential fathers. James’ performance as a Donna who’s just graduated college, and is looking to find herself in her travels, is fantastic. She exudes a spark and a liveliness that is truly sensational. She’s impulsive and charming, and it’s no wonder every guy she meets falls in love with her. Her rendition of “Mamma Mia” is also both heartbreaking and a ton of fun. You never knew she could sing like that when she was on Downton Abbey, and I think it’s best if we all just forget the truly awful Cinderella remake she starred in.
In the present, Sophie deals with issues in her marriage to Sky (Dominic Cooper), and she and Donna’s best friends bond in their memories of her. The BFFs, Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski – The Good Wife, The Good Fight) have a wonderful push and pull relationship; the kind only people who have been best friends most of their lives have. Their younger duplicates are spot on (Alexa Davies as Rosie and Jessica Keenan Wynn as Tanya). Davies is just as quirky and emotional as Walters, and Wynn is just as dry and overtly sexual as Baranski.
The songs are expertly choreographed and shot, and ridiculously fun. Seriously, if you don’t find yourself singing and dancing in your seat, there’s something wrong with you. From the new songs (When I Kissed the Teacher), to the repeat classics (Dancing Queen). (I hope we all understand that when I say “new,” I mean they hadn’t appeared in the first movie.) They all find their way threaded into the plot, and embody the emotions and mental states of the characters singing them. The costumes were also to die for. I wanted every single one of young Donna’s outfits. She even pulled the iconic overalls off.
What can I say? If you want to see a movie this summer where you’re going to have a lot of fun, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the film to see. The songs are a blast, the relationships touching (Sophie’s relationship with her dads is still the cutest), and the scenery gorgeous. I’m still not sure what Cher is doing playing Donna’s mother when she’s only four years older than Streep, but sure, we can throw logic out the window. There’s a reason the critics are going crazy over this film. It’s because it’s actually a really enjoyable watch. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.