Netflix UK film review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Ivan Radford | On 07, Dec 2018
Director: Ol Parker
Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Dominic Cooper, Hugh Skinner, Christine Baranski
Watch Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Sky Store
The words “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” might have sounded like a threat to many, after the 2008 musical that saw Abba’s back catalogue turned into a two-hour karaoke session. Fast forward 10 years, though, and it’s more than worth taking a chance on this sequel, which offers a blast of cinema magic so purely feel-good that any hint of threat is forgotten within a few bars of its opening number.
If the first film left something to be desired in the plot department, clumsily hopping from one track to the next without logic, this follow-up has a more identifiable story – and, when it comes to the shoehorning in of chart-topping hits, a knowing awareness that makes even the most forced of song inclusions amusing. What’s really surprising, though, isn’t how knowingly cheesy it is, but the fact that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is also hugely, unexpectedly moving.
The movie is draped around a flashback that spans two generations: in the present day, Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is preparing for the reopening of the hotel owned by her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), who passed away a year ago; and, in 1979, we see the young Donna (Lily James) graduate from Oxford, from where she heads on holiday with best friends Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn). Along their travels, she crosses paths (ahem) with three suitors: in Paris, Harry (Hugh Skinner), in Greece, Sam (Jeremy Irvine), and in between, Bill (Josh Dylan). When she discovers she is pregnant soon after, she isn’t sure who’s the father, but she is sure she has a dream to stay on sun-drenched Kalokairi and start a hotel. In the present, meanwhile, all three possible fathers (Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard) head to Donna’s Greek hotel to support Sophie’s reopening, and remember her mother.
It’s a neat premise – it’s perhaps no coincidence that Richard Curtis is credited with co-writing the story – and it allows for some genuinely poignant moments: while we see James, Davies and Wynn singing When I Kissed the Teacher and Mamma Mia with infectious enthusiasm, we also see Sophie pay tribute to Donna in the sweet My Love, My Life, and, in the film’s most inspired move, Pierce Brosnan’s Sam reprise his cover of SOS in a way that’s wonderfully, disarmingly melancholic. For all its easy-going, ramshackle tone, this is a sequel that has taken the time to learn the lessons of its predecessor.
But perhaps the biggest lesson of all is to simply have fun – and Here We Go Again does so with glorious abandon. It may be a movie that will make you cry several times, but it will have you laughing within a couple of minutes of starting, and barely lets you stop. A large part of that is down to Christine Baranski, whose older Tanya (accompanied by Julie Walters’ Rosie) is deliciously inappropriate and sassy at every opportunity. “Be still my beating vagina,” she declares, after meeting Andy Garcia’s hotel manager. She’s rivalled only by Hugh Skinner, whose younger take on Colin Firth is laugh-out-loud hilarious, from his terrible attempts to speak French to his adorably daft rendition of Waterloo with James’ Donna in an impeccably staffed restaurant.
All this is choreographed remarkably by Anthony Van Laast, while director Ol Parker (Now Is Good) and editor Peter Lambert (Children of Men, The Death of Stalin) find some quietly breathtaking ways to jump between timelines and characters – a sequence early on involving a bedroom mirror is jaw-droppingly slick.
The result is a rollicking good time that will delight fans of Abba – and sneakily win over anyone who says they’re not. By the time Cher rocks up near the end, and brings with her the biggest namedrop in the whole shebang, you’ll be crying Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! for more.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.