“Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again! But why?”
Movie Review by Madhusudhanan Sridaran (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again is a sequel (and prequel) to 2008’s Mamma Mia by Phyllida Lloyd. Ten years on from the first movie, we get a sequel that virtually nobody asked for—with Ol Parker of ‘Imagine Me & You’ and ‘Now Is Good’ fame helming the directorial reins this time around.
The first movie in the series got a lukewarm reception with Meryl Streep’s performance as Donna receiving critical acclaim for its nuanced integrity. We got to see another side of Streep, which many never knew existed. While this movie is essentially more of the same, the end product is ultimately a mixed bag. The bittersweet nature of this forgettable rom-com is oddly enough, mirrored in the movie’s casting itself—with Meryl Streep’s presence in the movie’s promotional materials being a blatant bait-and-switch designed to pull you in. That’s right, nowhere in the movie’s primary running time is Streep featured, despite the trailers painting a picture which states otherwise.
This shameless trick pulled on the audience detracts from the movie quite a bit—and in some ways, conveys the amount of confidence that the filmmakers have in their own film.
An utterly forgettable, underwhelming, and pointless romantic comedy, Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again has no artistic pretensions whatsoever. The movie’s plot and to an extent, the characters are ludicrous, and Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again, makes no effort to hide this fact. As a matter of fact, it embraces this bizarre state of the plot and characters, which somewhat lends to a surreal atmosphere that lingers throughout the film. The audience is bound to have a feeling of being able to accept the next ridiculous thing that is going to be projected on their screens—all in the name of good, mindless, fun. And at being mindless fun, the movie excels abundantly. Another saving grace of the movie is obviously, the music. Together with the silly plot, there is a “Hey, it’s silly fun. Why care about the details?” feel throughout the movie which ultimately manages to, somewhat, redeem this otherwise ridiculous film.
The plot is as barebones as it can get. Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is preparing for the grand opening of the Hotel Bella Donna, a year after her mother’s (Donna’s) passing away. She is upset with two of her fathers (Yes! She has three fathers. It’s a long story.) Harry and Bill (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) being unable to make it to the reopening. The movie is interspersed with flashbacks from 1979, when a young Donna (Lily James) sows her wild oats—choosing to live a life of adventure, drink, and song, before settling down (due to Sophie’s birth). In this dual perspective, and contrast, the film excels on a technical level—with slick camera shots, expert choreography, and frame juxtaposition contributing to the jumps in space and time, providing context and fleshing out the plot with technical meaning. Unfortunately, the characters come across as superficial and badly developed, nowhere in the movie are we given a reason to care for anybody other than Donna—with Lily James singlehandedly pumping life into the movie with her infectious persona and killer good looks. This lack of character development severely hampers the connection that the audience has with the movie, with viewers being forced to shrug at characters that they might have liked otherwise.
The main draw of the movie, obviously, is ABBA. Just like the first movie, ABBA’s tracks flesh out the plot with their songs being juxtaposed into the movie in a variety of situations—ranging from organically placed to downright ridiculous. All in good fun, as the cast (even the ones who do not know how to dance, I’m looking at you Pierce Brosnan) are seen having a blast as the movie unfolds. The gayest tunes are repeats from the first movie, “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper” being a couple of noteworthy examples. A majority of the soundtrack consists of ABBA’s lesser known tracks, and proves to be a key redeeming factor which works in the movie’s favor.
Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again is unfortunately, one of the most pointless, and silliest movies I have ever seen. However, it is obvious from the cast’s performances—who are seen to be having a blast, dancers and non-dancers alike. Whether you should watch the movie, depends completely on circumstances. If you have company, and are looking for mindless fun to kill a couple of hours, you can’t go wrong with Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again. Just don’t expect to remember anything from it a week into the future.