It’s not often that the oldest actress in the world hobbles onto a film for the last ten minutes and an audience of oestrogen overdosed, cocktail crazed women go even more berserk having already been mainlining the hits of Swedish power pop combo Abba. But that’s exactly what happened at the screening of Mamma Mia Here We Go Again when Cher popped up looking like a younger waxwork version of her own Madame Tussaud’s waxwork.
The original film of the stage play made an incredible $609m so a follow up was always a certainty but it’s been ten years since and the second film has had to use Abba’s very much secondary hits. The story picks up with Sophie (Amande Seyfried), the daughter of the late Donna (Meryl Streep), expecting a baby and waiting for her 3 dads and her guests to arrive for a party at her mother’s Greek island hotel which she now runs. It’s whilst she waits that she finds out about her late mothers own past and so the film flits back in time to her mum’s younger self played by Lily James. Co written by Richard Curtis the story covers Donna’s romantic dalliances with three men all of which she appears to end up sleeping with within 24hrs and to no one’s surprise expect her she ends up pregnant with Sophie. Pregnant and in Greece she decides to do what any woman would do in that predicament – she decides to renovate the house into a small hotel.
It’s a bit of an ask for an actress to play a younger Meryl Streep and Lily James interpretation has little bearing on Streep’s but the younger version of Streep’s friends Julie Walters & Christine Baranski played respectively by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn have captured all the quirks of their older counterparts although Wynn/ Baranski role maintains her character’s continuity by insisting she would stay with the same long bob haircut for decades.
The success of the first film was heavily dependent on Abba’s greatest hits which still stand up today (The Winner Takes It All about the group going through their divorces has some of the most heart rending lyrics it’s a wonder how they ever managed to sing it without breaking down in tears). Mamma Mia Here We Go Again however has the bands second tier of songs many of which lack the hook of their best songs and some have very dubious titles notably ‘When I kissed the teacher’ which today would either have the offending teacher on the sex offenders list or working as a TV presenter. Whereas Knowing me, Knowing you is now indelibly associated with Steve Coogan in full Alan Partridge mode (A-ha!) but its Cher’s version of ‘Fernando’ which has everyone cheering if only for the fact that a 200 year old woman can stand without her zimmer frame for more than a few minutes. If the films missing one thing that was a highlight of the first film it’s Pierce Brosnan caterwauling his way through a song unable to hit a note even if he had a hammer.
Mamma Mia 2 has a huge cast and as so often happens few get a look in with only Lily James (Baby Driver) and Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed) getting any real screen time. The rest of the cast are very much on the periphery none more so than Andy Garcia (Book Club) who pops up for a few lines here and there between wondering if his pay cheque had cleared.
Apart from Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn the younger cast members are a pretty bland bunch part and initially come across as flamboyantly irritating little stage school show offs compared to the older actors but eventually it’s unavoidable that even the most miserable cynics will warm to the film and it’s all highly enjoyable. Mamma Mia Here We Go Again is undoubtedly this summer’s feel good film.
Here’s the trailer….