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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – Movie Review

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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Mamma Mia created a simple premise as an excuse to perform ABBA’s greatest hits and the result felt like drunken celebrity karaoke. The sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again hits the screen ten years later and somehow manages to produce a completely non-existent plot, just to get a few more songs performed. There is barely any connective tissue as the film jumps between Sophie and her mother in the early 1980s. One would hope an energetic musical number or two would bring some enjoyment to the proceedings, but the songs prove just as un-engaging as what the characters are doing. It’s nice they could more-or-less bring the cast back for another vacation on the Greek islands, but it doesn’t make for compelling cinema.

The most curious element of Mamma Mia 2 is the almost complete absence of Meryl Streep. The entire film seems to be written around her short availability window, resulting in cutting back and forth between the two flimsy plotlines. There is some small attempt at drama involving Sophie’s relationship with her husband and trying to re-open her mother’s hotel, but these scenes only exist as an excuse to cut back to the younger Donna. Lily James, playing the recently graduated Donna, certainly switches on the charm, but she has little strong material to work with. The attempts at comedy land with a thud, but the most bothersome aspect comes from the lack of transition into the songs.

The songs begin suddenly and with no flow and don’t exist for any real story purpose. Most disappointingly, the musical numbers lack the necessary energy to make them entertaining. The choreography in the first Mamma Mia was so bizarre and watching the numbers in the sequel makes one miss the pure insanity of it all. All musicals require a suspension of disbelief and part of the appeal is seeing people perform expertly choreographed numbers as if this is a normal part of our existence. Throughout Mamma Mia 2, they somehow come across as unbelievable within the film’s internal logic. At least the singing is mostly passable and the filmmakers were smart enough to give Pierce Brosnan a solo closer to his range.

Most of the characters feel superfluous in the present day scenes, with Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard only showing up, because it’s expected of them. Cher’s entire role is pointless, except to pad out the runtime with more unnecessary songs. The only song that really feels tied into the plot is the titular number. Mamma Mia 2 is so empty, one begins to think they’re wrapping it up as soon as they sing “Dancing Queen.” Unfortunately, there’s another half an hour left. Director Ol Parker overuses slow-motion far too often, even in a scene where a couple is kissing and another one where Donna is merely walking through an orange grove.

After watching Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, one loses the desire of listening to an ABBA tune again. They were certainly an important group in the 1970s and it’s unfortunate these irritating musicals will now be a major part of their legacy. Jukebox musicals can be well done, but there needs to be a good story for those pre-existing songs to naturally exist in. There is no substance or interesting character development to be found here, which would be forgiven if the musical numbers had any energy and pizzazz to them. Even more-so than its predecessor, this is one big ball of nothing with actors trying their best to make this karaoke work on the screen.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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