Set a few years after the first Mamma Mia! Sophie Sheridan is getting ready to open the Hotel Bella Donna by herself. Sky is in New York training under the greatest hoteliers in the city, but the two have grown distant. Donna Sheridan, unfortunately, died between films. As Sophie organises the event, the movie jumps back and forth to the story of how Donna met Harry, Bill and Sam.
Mamma Mia! was a piece of feel-good fluff, yes its plot was silly, but the musical numbers were good and there was just the right amount of cheese to make it a fun sing-along movie. The plot was slightly odd, stolen from a 1968 Italian film and the characters were broad strokes, but the great musical numbers weaved so perfectly with the story of a daughter trying to figure out which of three men were her father, it brought a smile to everyone’s lips.
In Here We Go Again everything is ramped up to 11 and not in the good way. The plot is atrociously put together. So we have Sophie trying to cope with running a hotel and Young Donna on her journey to be a mother and the hotelier that we see in the first film. You can see the attempts at parallels within the story as both a young Donna and Sophie are dealing with the same problems of fixing a hotel by themselves. However, the issue is that the stories are never adequately weaved together. This is mainly because there are so many other things going on in the film than just the journey of two women running a hotel. There are marriage issues that are instantly solved, problems with organising the party that are immediately resolved, Donna’s carefree travels around Europe that go unimpeded and there is also charting the course of Donna meeting Harry, Bill and Sam, which sounded nice in the first film, but in the execution of Here We Go Again, makes the guys incredibly creepy.
Though this should really be no surprise as the story of Mamma Mia! exists purely to get us from one Abba song to another. However, some of the songs are repeats of songs from the first one, and most of the others are the ones that original creators of the musical left out, meaning that Mamma Mia is a little bit like the second disc of a greatest hits album. This and the constant cameos from Abba stars makes this more like it was pandering to the greatness of a group that while it has been popular and influential made some songs that sounded very, very similar. What makes these musical numbers even worse, despite some of them having some great visual flair like the Waterloo number, is that unfortunately not all the cast can sing, which is also true of the Waterloo number and the actor playing the young Harry, an actor I actually like from W1A, Hugh Skinner. Not all of them are bad, the duet between Sophie and Donna to “My Love, My Life” which was very affecting, and as I said “Waterloo” did have some good choreography despite what initiates the song and the inability of Skinner to sing.
Speaking of characters, the film lacks anything resembling a character or an arch. The most obvious victim is Lily James, who phones it in as the younger Donna, there for a paycheck and a lovely holiday, who seems to fit more in an advert for a package holiday rather than a movie. What makes Donna a particular case is the way that other characters talk about her, making her sound special and extraordinary, but we do not see any of that in the film, she is just a naive graduate with wanderlust. Maybe it’s the times that we live in, but a movie about someone having a great time on an extended holiday and falling upon an expansive greek property feels disingenuous and pandering to those who aspire to be Donna.
There are some good things in this film; Donna’s friends are great no matter the period, as is Harry played by Colin Firth, and Omid DJalili steels the movie as a ferry ticket inspector. Amanda Seyfried tries her hardest to get audiences to feel in a film that yanks your heartstrings so hard you think it’s going to take all your internal organs with you. However, these emotional platitudes are never earned, mainly drawing on the parallels between Sophie and Donna, Sophie missing her mother, as well as the heartbreak Donna feels after breaking up with Sam after only a few weeks together.
For those looking for some 70’s Swedish nostalgia, go elsewhere. The lack of meaningful plot, character, trite attempts at emotionality and inability for most of the cast to sing means that you are better off listening to a greatest hits album rather than sitting through nearly 2 hours of this.
You can watch Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in cinemas now