Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Sometimes a film does beg for a sequel, I know that’s not something the film world needs to hear right now, but there are rare cases where more story can be spun out of memorable characters. Such was the case, in my opinion, with Mamma Mia! There could be a prequel about Donna’s flings with her three lovers, or even a continuation as the unconventional family with three dads learns to cohabit in a magical island in Greece. After ten years of waiting for a second part we are delivered a bland mesh that leaves everyone disappointed.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has come out nearly ten years to the date of the first film. Here, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) gathers the cast of the previous film as she prepares to reopen her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) old hotel. However, we also jump back in time to see how a young Donna (Lily James) travels the world after graduating from Oxford University.
The film has two great sequel ideas that are watered down by each other, so that none of them take center stage. Lazy story planning and scriptwriting make the entire narrative seem like only the first five minutes the studio brainstorming the sequel. The other problem Here We Go Again faced was whether to recycle the great ABBA hits from the first film, or to dig up other lesser-known songs; they unfortunately chose to go with the latter and the result is less memorable numbers. The choreography itself seems different, with the actors breaking into song and moving through the set with much more awkward movements, the seamlessness of the first film is lost.
Director Ol Parker does bring some creativity in how he films the musical numbers, transitioning from singers or scenes by zooming out of a painting or through mirrors; unfortunately the subtle feminist feeling of the first film is lost as director Phyllida Lloyd doesn’t return. The changes are felt, as Parker tries to portray the individual female lead as independent, but loses out on the more subtle details by having every woman paired up with a man in the end, or by turning “Dancing Queen” (which had been filmed as a female anthem in the first film) into simply another musical number. Lloyd, coming from Broadway, also had a defter hand at integrating the song in the live atmosphere of life; in Here We Go Again whenever someone breaks into song the surrounding sounds of the birds or the sea are muted so that the ensuing tune sounds so blatantly recorded in a studio.
The new additions to the cast are the bright aspects of the film, however. Lily James was bold enough to try and take on a Meryl Streep roll, and her enthusiasm bursts through so that she proves to be up to par. And then there’s Cher, who plays Donna’s mother in this film, and while not having a lot of dialogue, when she breaks into song, a wave of goose-bumps flutters through the audience.
In the end an anticipated sequel with much expectation falls short in nearly every area. That’s not to say that this is a terrible film, but you’re better off just staying home and watching the first one instead.
There was also a curious perspective thrown in this film, that I find many will not take notice of. The scenes in Donna’s past deal with how this valedictorian from one of the most prestigious colleges in the world decides to settle down in a shabby Greek island. Her friends and even her love interests prod her on leaving and going back home in order to become someone and do something. The view from these friends and lovers is that Donna is throwing her life away, but what I found so refreshing is that she decides to stay in this Greek island because that’s what makes her happy. The decision seems very inconceivable to the consumers of the capitalistic Hollywood; but if you’re happy, is that really throwing your life away?