I was already having a good time with Mamma Mia 2, but when I saw Colin Firth rolling around on a sailboat singing Dancing Queen, I just had to submit. The slow parts of this quasi-sequel are pretty bad, but when it gets its momentum, it’s nothing but pure concentrated bliss.
It is somewhat impossible to review a movie like Mamma Mia 2. I mean, sure, the script is paper-thin, the editing leaves much to be desired, and overall the production value is little more than that of a TV Land promotional segment, but it’s just so much fun. There are few things more infectious than a group of celebrities having the time of their life. That’s probably the greatest triumph of this film, as the last fifteen minutes or so are a glamorous explosion of gleeful abandon, where you get to see Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard broing out in the Greek isles, Meryl Streep get a seemingly endless chain of “hero shots” understandably treating her more like a diety than an actress, and of course a duet between Cher and Andy Garcia starts and ends as quickly as the hurricane at the end of this film. In other words, it’s just a romp.
From a storytelling standpoint, I am admittedly conflicted. MM2 is framed in such a way so that a modern-day plotline following Amanda Seyfried’s character from the first film is mirrored opposite the tangled story of her conception. Lily James plays a younger Meryl Streep over a raucous week of her life where she meets each of her daughter’s potential fathers on her journey to the Grecian isle of Kalikari. Meanwhile, in the future, Amanda Seyfried has created literally the nicest resort of all-time with little to no help but is disappointed because no one is going to come to her opening party. Needless to say, the Amanda Seyfried storyline is considerably weaker. So much so that any time her bits were happening I was counting the minutes until it cut to the past again. This isn’t her fault really, after all, Lily James is about the most charming person alive. My confliction comes from my opinion that the film would work a lot better as a straight prequel. Every aspect of the movie, from the music sequences to the acting and the costume design is better in the 70’s segment. But that being said, if we cut the other half of the film, we wouldn’t get the joy of seeing all our favorite characters return for the incredible song and dance that unfolds over the movie’s credits. Not to mention the fact that this movie likely wouldn’t have been made in the first place, as it was clearly produced just to give a friendly boost to the careers of those who haven’t exactly flourished over the past decade. Just saying. We can’t all be Meryl Streep.
But at the end of the day, who am I kidding? This isn’t exactly high art, but it was never trying to be. As far as I see it, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again had three goals. 1. Make some money. 2. Be a worthy sequel to the original. 3. Just have a damn good time. And as far as I can tell, it succeeded on every count. It might not have much staying power, but it certainly made for a fun theater experience. Let’s try for a third in 2028.
All images are from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a film by Universal Pictures