If you aren’t already an ABBA or “Mamma Mia!” fan, I can’t convince you to see the sequel “Here We Go Again” — this is a movie made purely for its already captured demo. You want more handsome men? They’ve doubled the amount from the first film! You want more songs? There are so many damn songs! You want more shots of how beautiful and idyllic the Greek islands are? There are a bunch of those!
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is being released 10 years after the original, and sure, that was an already-decided-upon scheduling choice. But “Here We Go Again” also feels like a movie that most people will need right now: it’s fun, charming, light, gleeful, giddy, energetic. It’s basically a picnic on a sunny day with no humidity and no threat of thunderstorms and all your favorite snacks. It’s like an exuberant high-five followed by a meaningful hug. It’s not attempting to be anything different from what it is, which is a romantic comedy musical, and that’s just fine.
Picking up a decade after the events of the first film, “Here We Go Again” balances two storylines. In present day, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is consumed with reopening the villa after the damage it sustained at the end of the first film. She’s in Greece while her partner Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in New York City studying the hospitality business, and the six weeks they’ve spent apart has put a strain on their relationship. That leads Sophie to turn to her stepfather and potential biological father Sam (Pierce Brosnan), and it’s through his memories of how he and Sophie’s mother Donna (Meryl Streep) met that the narrative jumps back to 1979.
In the late ’70s, Donna (now played by Lily James) had just graduated and was ready to see the world. With a few suitcases, an array of fantastic hats, and a winning smile at her disposal, Donna travels through Europe, crossing paths with the men who years later Sophie would call her three dads: Brit Harry (in the past played by Hugh Skinner; in the present day played by Colin Firth), who is on holiday before beginning a career in banking; Swede sailor Bill (in the past played by Josh Dylan and in the present day played by Stellan Skarsgård), who has a playboy reputation; and Irish architect and artist Sam (played by the past by Jeremy Irvine), who is flirting with the idea of never going back home.
How Donna becomes entangled with these three men, each of whom grow to care for her deeply, is explored in that 1979 storyline, as well as her friendships with life-long confidantes Tanya (played in the past by Jessica Keenan Wynn and in the present day by Christine Baranski) and Rosie (played in the past by Alexa Davies and in the present day by Julie Walters).
Donna sings, dances, and expresses her desire to live simply but joyously; decades later, Sophie wonders if she can do the same. And while nothing about “Here We Go Again” is particularly surprising — this movie is primarily and almost exclusively about love and friendship, and to assume otherwise would be foolish — it at least has a script that is funny and self-aware. Baranski is again the MVP, delivering lines like “Be still, my beating vagina” with great gusto, but Wynn and Walters are fantastic as well as younger versions of Tanya and Rosie. Andy Garcia is a welcome addition, even though you can clearly tell why both he and Cher have been incorporated into the film. And James is lovely; she’s not an exact match for Streep’s mannerisms, but she goes all-in, especially during a duet between her and Harry in a French bistro.
By the time of the final “Dancing Queen” performance, which brings together practically every character on the island of Kalokairi, you’ll think the film is almost over — but no, you still have three more endings to go! “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a little too long and a little too concentrated on itself, but why would you expect anything else? It’s goofy and it’s buoyant, and right now, that feels like just enough.
Review: 4 out of 5