Cheesier than a barrel of feta, the ABBA-thon returns but misses the magic of Meryl.
If you’ve seen the first Mamma Mia!—that most wholesome tale of uncertain paternity—you’ll probably have a solid idea of how the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, will play. There are postcard-ready landscapes, airy romances, and a whole lot of ABBA tunes sung with gusto, if not finesse, by movie stars. It all makes for an intermittently pleasant summer diversion, but a preposterous screenplay filled with wild coincidences and lines like “I’m gonna make some memories” ensures its status as frustrating kitsch. Like its predecessor, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is proudly schmaltzy, wearing its musical theater influences on its sleeve. Still, watching all those forced music cues isn’t always fun.
The most novel part of the film is its use of flashbacks: The story is threaded with scenes of Meryl Streep’s character Donna, the fun-loving bohemian matriarch, as a young woman. Lily James’s performance as the young Donna is warm, and while the cutting between the present and the past is often syrupy, it keeps the movie bustling along. These flashbacks build up the paternity story that was at the center of the first movie and it’s noteworthy that while the conceit is built around Donna having affairs with three different men and becoming pregnant and uncertain as to the identity of the father, there’s no slut-shaming here. The film is like a sanitized fairytale: Everyone is positive, and the three potential fathers all get along. Even the classic evil maternal figure (as embodied by none other than Cher) ends up not being so bad, and finding love. Everything that happens in is designed to further an aggressively upbeat narrative. The sparkling blue waters are pretty and the songs are catchy, but you may well wind up feeling smothered by the non-stop corniness of it all.
Cast and crew