Film review: ‘MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The musical is a rare film genre these days with La La Land one of the few recent examples. It seems the broad theatrical acting, cheesy scenarios and often clunky combination of real world drama and song-and-dance fantasy stretches credulity a little too far for the more cynical modern audience. It’s a credit largely to the song writing genius of ABBA’s Benny and Bjorn that a contemporary musical such as Mamma Mia could be successful enough to produce a much-anticipated sequel. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again continues in exactly the same vein as the extremely camp, insubstantial but crowd-pleasing original.

Just like The Godfather: Part 2 (well, not quite), this one parallels present and past with charming ex-pat American Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) ongoing romantic dramas and her attempt to turn her Greek island villa into a hotel interspersed with flashbacks to 1979 where her mother Donna (played by Meryl Streep in the present and Lily James in the past) meets and has plenty of casual sex with the three men who may be Sophie’s father.

Just like the first Mamma Mia film, Here We Go Again is a fluffy romantic fantasy with less dramatic substance than a typical half hour soap episode. Plot, however, is really an afterthought, what really matters in these films is the singing, dancing and quirky comic energy and in its dubious and clumsy manner the film delivers. The ebullient set-pieces are mostly fun and feature spirited, if not always note-perfect, versions of ABBA’s best known tracks. The songs suffer from the fact that we’re familiar with much better original versions but they’re still enjoyable. Lily James actually sings pretty well and delivers a surprisingly impressive version of one of ABBA’s best tracks Name Of The Game, a song no less a luminary than folk guitar legend Richard Thompson lists among his favourites.

The Mamma Mia films are unashamedly camp-fests a fact made apparent with all the subtlety of a Las Vegas neon sign by the inclusion of Cher as Sophie’s visiting grandma. Cher isn’t particularly animated or expressive here but generally satisfies the adoring audience’s kitsch fix. She’s also a legitimate singer which is welcome here.

The rest of the star-studded cast, which once again includes Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard are vaguely amusing although hardly memorable and thankfully not allowed to do too much singing. Just about stealing the film though are Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as Donna’s sexually voracious besties.

Like the original, this film is, apart from a couple of sensitive moments, pure fluff but it’s mostly charming and fun.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Musical/ romantic comedy.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Ol Parker.

Release date: 19th July 2018.

Running time: 114 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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