In 2008, Universal released the wildly successful big-screen adaptation of playwright Catherine Johnson’s Mamma Mia, and its $609.8 million-dollar worldwide tally made it the highest grossing musical until 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. So, although it took ten years to actually happen, a sequel was inevitable. Or at least a prequel, or a pre-sequel?
As the marketing blitz reveals, the whole cast is back – and then some – to tell the story of how Meryl Streep’s Donna came to meet her three suitors who eventually became daughter Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) multiple dads. Younger actors are cast as counterparts to the original, older actors to tell the story of a young Donna, a story that audiences basically already know and undermined by posters and trailers that spoil every plot point and one-liner. But then again, this is for fans of the original who likely won’t care that its marketing is its own spoiler. Or that it barely has a plot, or hardly any catchy tunes until its third act and loads of tonal missteps and jokes resting on sad stereotypes. Fans will suck it up the way Julie Walters’ Rose eats her emotions with a heaping helping of cake. They may not even care that the heroine of the film, Lily James’ young Donna, comes off largely as a flighty narcissist. But for the rest of us, even those of us who like musicals, we’ll need more.
This is a paper-thin cash-grab, loosely built around shoehorned Abba songs. Its two overlong hours of lame dancing accompany only half a cast who can actually sing, all while parading about some of your favorite stars who waddle to Abba songs while poured into costumes they have no business wearing. Thankfully, a late-arriving Meryl Streep shows them all how it’s done in just a few scant minutes of screen time with the best song and most touching scene in the whole movie. Meanwhile, the funniest scene may belong to Colin Firth, whose exasperation shown in the Bollywood-style credit roll may not be acting at all. But if you go, stick around for an end-credits tag that got some of the loudest laughs of the entire film, sadly.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Runtime: 1 hrs. 54 min.
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material
Directed by: Ol Parker
Writing Credits: Ol Parker (screenplay by), Richard Curtis (story by), and Ol Parker (story by) and Catherine Johnson (story by), Judy Craymer (originally conceived by), Catherine Johnson (based on the original musical by)
Stars: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Cher, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irvine, Andy Garcia