Tuesday, July 17, 2018
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ Film Review: Lily James Makes Up for Near-Absence of Meryl Streep
“Mamma Mia! The Movie” wasn’t exactly crying out for a sequel. Adapted from a stage musical, which was based in turn on the back catalogue of Sweden’s finest pop group, ABBA, it had barely enough plot to sustain one film, let alone two. But it also grossed $615 million from a $52 million budget, making it the fifth most lucrative film of 2008. Faced with those numbers, which producer was going to quibble about a little detail like plot?
As for the writer-director, Ol Parker, he doesn’t come up with any urgent artistic reasons for the existence of its follow-up,”Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” but he does make it surprisingly watchable, and he manages to overcome some mountainous obstacles. For one thing, the first film, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, was shot on the Greek island of Skopelos, whereas this one has moved to a less idyllic — and less sunny — Croatian location. Parker has to resort to a lot of tight framing — and, by the look of things, a lot of green screen — to disguise the fact that the characters aren’t where they were 10 years ago.
For another thing, “Here We Go Again” doesn’t have more than a few seconds of the first film’s star, Meryl Streep. “Mamma Mia! The Movie” ended with her character, Donna, living happily ever after with her long-lost true love, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), so it’s depressing to learn in the sequel that she has been dead for a year. Meanwhile, her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who was last seen sailing off into the sunset with her oddly named boyfriend, Sky (Dominic Cooper), has apparently spent much of the last decade restoring her mother’s rustic hotel.
As she prepares for its grand reopening, the narrative flashes back to 1979, whereupon it retells the story that was told in “Mamma Mia! The Movie.” The story, you may remember, is that Donna slept with three men one summer, 20 years earlier, and so she didn’t know which of them was Sophie’s biological father: Sam (Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) or Bill (Stellan Skarsgard). “Here We Go Again” shows us exactly what happened, with the twentysomething Donna played by Streep, and given that the first film stated that Donna’s mother was (a) a severe Catholic, and (b) dead. But it’s unlikely that anyone will object to hearing an icon sing “Fernando.”
Besides, if Donna’s mother can return from the grave for “Here We Go Again,” maybe Donna herself can be revived for “Mamma Three-a” a decade from now.
Source: the wrap feed