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Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

1 August 18 words: Alicia Lansom

Set to the soundtrack of the seventies, the Mamma Mia! gang have dusted off their glittery platforms to bring audiences a second instalment that has almost as much sparkle as the original…

Director: Ol Parker

Starring: Lily James, Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried

Running time: 114 mins

When first creating a movie-musical that centres around the songbook of a much-loved Swedish pop-group, you’d probably not think about a scenario where ten years on from the original, you would be asked to make a sequel. But this was the case for the filmmakers behind the 2008 box office smash Mamma Mia! who this year had the task of creating a whole new ABBA-centric story, but this time with a much smaller back catalogue of music to work from.

This is potentially why the sequel enlisted the help of rom-com royalty, British screenwriter Richard Curtis, who is responsible for some of the worlds most beloved feel-good movies such as Love Actually and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Presumably this was done in the hope that with a well-written storyline, audiences would be fine with the fact that they didn’t really know many of the words to the songs.

Well, they were right. Despite a lesser-known soundtrack, the film still has all the elements to rival the success of the first. This time the story backtracks to focus on the events that lead up to Donna (Meryl Streep) becoming a mother. Starting in 1979, we meet a young Donna (Lily James) graduating from university and planning her future with her two best friends. Desperate to travel she sets off on a journey of self-discovery, where along the way she has a string of whirlwind romances with three young men, Harry, Bill and Sam. 

All of the boys fall head over heels for Donna but her heart is captured by the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, where she decides she wants to stay forever and open a hotel. But soon after she makes her decision to stay alone and live on the island, she discovers she is pregnant with her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried).

This film knows what it is and plays into it

In the present day, five years on from the events of the first film, Sophie is preparing to re-open her mother's hotel on the island. We soon find out that Donna has passed away a year prior, and Sophie is renovating the villa in her honour. But with her partner Sky away learning the hotel business in New York, she is alone and overwhelmed in planning the launch of the newly named Hotel Bella Donna.

Her doubts about her own ability are cut with flashbacks of her young mother facing her own challenges, as the story flip-flops between time frames. But much like any movie-musical, there isn’t much that can’t be fixed with a song and a dance, especially if it’s a reprise of Dancing Queen on a fleet of boats with Harry and Bill (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) at the helm in Titanic pose.

Whether it’s the dad-dancing from Brosnan and co., the over-the-top physical comedy of Julie Walters or the outrageous one-liners from Christine Baranski, it’s obvious that this time around everybody is there with the purpose of having a good time. But despite being chock-full of cheesiness, the film does have it’s emotional moments, in particular, a touching rendition of My Love, My Life that had the whole cinema sniffling.

If you loved the first film you’ll enjoy this one almost as much, featuring the return of all of the original’s best characters, as well as a new younger cast that add some crowd-pleasing comedic moments. This film knows what it is and plays into it, so be prepared for a fun-loving and entirely unrealistic story and you’ll have a great time. And if you’re still not convinced, Cher appears in a platinum blonde wig to serenade Andy Garcia with Fernando. If that doesn’t do it for you, nothing will.

Did you know? ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus makes a cameo appearance in the number When I Kissed The Teacher.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 9 August

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