The original, ABBA-inspired musical danced its way into theaters back in 2008, where free-spirit Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) came face to face with the three men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Bill Skarsgard) who could potentially be the father of Donna’s daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). In Here We Go Again!, written and directed by Ol Parker, Donna is still very much at the center of the story, only now, we get flashbacks of Donna in her youth (Lily James) showing how she came to meet Sophie’s potential dads, Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Sam (Jeremy Irvine).
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! is easily one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen, so, needless to say, it’s also one of the most ridiculously fun theater experiences I’ve had all year. From the moment we first see young Donna performing “When I Kissed the Teacher” at her college graduation with bff’s Rosie and Tanya (Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan), I was completely on board with what they were selling me.
Credit where credit is due – this movie would not work as well as it does without the delightful and committed performance that Lily James gives as Donna. She can sing, she can dance (she can jiiiive!), but what particularly stands out is the carefree nature one would expect from Donna Sheridan as a young woman living life, falling in love, and ultimately tackling motherhood. After watching this movie, I’m convinced that Donna is a modern icon – and James is a true star.
Easily the best moments come from Donna’s interactions with the young counterparts of Sophie’s dads. Hugh Skinner’s Harry is bumbling and endearing, Jeremy Irvine’s Sam is charming and smooth, but it’s Josh Dylan’s Bill that had me wondering why Donna didn’t pick him back then over everyone else. Seriously, can we talk about young Bill? Let’s talk about young Bill. James clearly has the most chemistry with Dylan, and despite knowing that Donna eventually picks Sam in present-day, it means that she also broke young Bill’s heart back then, and I am just not okay with that.
That aside, the flashbacks are the highlights of the movie. I found I didn’t care as much about what was happening in present day. Sophie, the new owner of the Hotel Bella Donna in Greece, has made some major renovations to it and plans to host a party to celebrate. That’s pretty much it. There’s no real conflict involved, other than some long-distance relationship problems with Sophie’s now-husband Sky (Dominic Cooper), and the question of whether Harry and Bill will be able to attend the party. With movies like this, that lack of conflict doesn’t bother me because that’s not its intention or function, but it’s something to note.
In general, a lot of the older counterparts don’t have very meaty roles. The whole cast returns, and their presence is certainly felt, but the focus is on the youth in Here We Go Again. We get less of Pierce Brosnan singing, though, so that’s a plus.
I also want to address Meryl Streep’s version of Donna. I won’t spoil any specific details since I didn’t know anything going into the screening, but I will say that the storytelling decisions made regarding her character worked really well for me, paving the way for some surprisingly poignant moments.
Oh, and Cher is in this movie…for some reason. Given how limited her role is, it felt like she was really only there to have her solo musical moment which, while fun, wasn’t completely necessary to include. But it’s Cher, so I can’t complain too much.
Some movies are meant to keep us on the edge of our seat, enduring the dramatic twists and turns. Then there are movies that are just pure fun – escapism at its finest – and that’s exactly what you’re getting with Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! Although, if we’re being honest, could you expect anything less from a musical featuring ABBA music, elaborate boat dance sequences, and Cher?
One last thing of note – Here We Go Again! gives Marvel a run for its money with the best credits sequence of all time, so stick around for that!