Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is in theaters on July 20th, 2018.

Ten years after the sensation that was Mamma Mia!, comes a sequel that makes the original proud and proves that it wasn’t greenlit only for the money, money, money. If that line made you groan, it’s time to shutter yourself away until the cheesy ABBA fever blows over. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is exactly like the first, and its everything we never knew we wanted in a sequel we never even asked for. It’s precisely the refreshing ray-of-sunshine that we needed this summer.

The same star-studded cast returns as Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to throw a grand opening celebration as she takes over the management of her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) hotel on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi. As her three fathers, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), and her mother’s best friends and members of Donna and the Dynamos, Tanya (Christine Branski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), descend on the island, a pregnant Sophie tries to carry on her mother’s business while her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in the US studying to become a master hotelier. As a pregnant Sophie prepares through the stress, she can’t help but wonder how her single mom managed to raise a daughter and start a hotel in a country on her own. Interspersed between ABBA-solutely fantastic songs from the 70s pop band catalogue, the movie follows the story of a young Donna (Lily James) as she falls in love and learns to live her life to the fullest.

Despite rehashing the backstory we were already told in the original, this sequel manages to flesh out the past in a way that still feels fresh and interesting. Nothing is truly unexpected – after all, we’ve heard it all before – but it’s still endearingly charming. Lily James delivers a fantastic performance that feels natural despite the massive shoes she was attempting to fill. What could have been a cheesy, awkward dive into the pasts of these eccentric characters was instead a – well, still cheesy but enthralling and just childishly fun experience. Somehow they just made it work. The original cast returns in all the ridiculous over-the-top performances we would want from Mamma Mia!, while the younger cast delivers a solid performance that enhances and elevates everything we loved about these characters.

However, there was one exception. Despite a phenomenal performance from Lily James, the movie suffers from a distinct shortage of Meryl Streep. The sequel makes it clear – this is a story about Donna’s life, not about what she’s been up to in the years since the original. And although they absolutely pulled it off with her more limited role allowing the rest of the cast the opportunity to shine, Meryl Streep’s Donna is what pulled the original together. Her character, and her character’s dynamic with the rest of the cast, and Meryl’s performance is what makes Mamma Mia. Even with Meryl taking a smaller role in the film, she occupies a major presence in the film that adds an emotional power, but it’s just not the same. And although Lily James can belt out a tune, Meryl Streep’s Mamma Mia just holds a special place in my heart.

Perhaps an even bigger absence was the limited campiness that made the original great. Some may disagree (with the original receiving only a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes), but Mamma Mia! knew not to take itself so seriously. It was ridiculous, groan-worthy, and was just the perfect amount of over-the-top campiness. The sequel still knows not to take itself seriously, but it does feel more like a traditional musical. The songs are better integrated, the song choices are overall better, and the movie flows more like what a traditional musical should feel like.

Understanding our disappointment with the stark lack of Meryl, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again tries to fill our unsatisfied hearts with a truly wonderful replacement. Cher was a highlight of the movie and any song featuring her is leaps and bounds better than any song on the original soundtrack – and that’s coming from a fan. Her presence elevated an already character-heavy movie. The music overall, even the songs without Cher, are fantastic. Granted, they’re borrowing from some of the best songs of the 20 th century. But this soundtrack will absolutely be added to a Spotify playlist near you. It was also a nice nod that of the songs that were repeated, they gave us a different group of singers to belt them out so it didn’t feel like a complete re-hash of the original. Plus they gave us plenty of new songs that this sequel can absolutely stand on its own.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again falls short on possibly the two biggest things I would want in a sequel: Meryl Streep screentime and eye-rolling campiness. Both of these prevent it from being better than the original. But those are the only complaints – this sequel offers the full package and gives us everything else we wouldn’t even think to ask for. Cher, the music, the new cast, our original favorites – everything comes together to follow the same formula that made the original so fantastic. Almost as good as the first, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again gives us a refreshing, uplifting, and just downright fun experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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