For those of you who have never seen the wildly popular Mamma Mia!, no need to worry about catching up on missed plot lines. I went with a friend who had not seen the first, and she was still able to enjoy the sequel with no hiccups. In fact, while I have seen the precursor to this version of the modern musical, in the first twenty minutes of the sequel I was confused by the diverging timelines, and my friend (who, again, hasn’t seen the first) was able to explain to me (a dumb person) that the main character was simply a young Donna, and not a relative or grandchild of some sort.
SOME SPOILERS BUT NOTHING THAT WILL RUIN THE FUN
As mentioned, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again oscillates between two timelines, the first covering Young Donna (Lily James) and how she came to be alone on a Greek island, and the second covering the current state of her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she mourns her mother’s passing and attempts to re-open the Hotel Bella Donna on the very same Greek island where her mother “found herself.”
Young Donna graduates from college and sets sail, leaving her two soul mates and best friends behind, only to find the most beautiful place in the world and several chance encounters with the most beautiful men in the world. Lily James is the bright shining light that keeps you guessing, laughing, and singing along. With any young love story, there are ups and there are downs. Yet somehow, Donna always finds a way to move past the negative and create a positive, which is a lesson I think we can all take to heart.
Amanda Seyfried crushes in what is surely the role she will continue to be known for. Sophie finds herself reviving a once again rundown hotel that her mother spent her life renovating. She has planned a huge party, and with the help of Donna’s two best friends she hopes to not only open the iconic hotel, but also to commemorate her mother’s life. As she struggles with her own love life, the lovers of her mother’s past come running back into the picture to support Sophie during this difficult but exciting time.
The music of ABBA makes a glorious return with plenty of “Mamma Mia” and “Dancing Queen,” and some new songs amplify the emotion in each heartbroken, exuberant, and elated performance. The star-studded cast including Meryl Streep (Donna), Cher (Ruby Sheridan), Pierce Brosnan (Sam), Stellan Skarsgard (Bill), Colin Firth (Harry), Andy Garcia (Fernando!) and several newcomers bring energy to every scene and every song. Dull moments need not apply. In fact, one of the very best scenes comes when the cast is split between land and sea, singing “Dancing Queen” on the beach and on several yachts sailing into the harbor. With a nod to ‘Titanic’, Bill and Harry embrace each other on the bow of an incoming boat, while Sam, Sophie, Rosie (Julie Walters), and Tanya (Christine Baranski) break out into song on the shore.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is an energetic, unabashedly cheesy, and wildly fun ride from start to finish. Several key cameos bring big laughs (think Dos Equis), and stellar performances from the usual suspects make this one a summertime winner. But the biggest winner is Lily James, conquering the role of Young Donna, a character that Meryl Streep had set such a high bar for in Mamma Mia! This sequel has so many emotional and funny moments that the lighthearted and silly nature of it ranks it higher than its predecessor in my book.
Note: While it’s not 100% necessary, the first Mamma Mia! is on Netflix if you want to catch it before heading to your favorite theater to see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!