When Mama Mia The Movie came out, in 2008, it instantly became a favorite with me. The high energy musical, created around ABBA songs, was fun and playful and I watched it over and over again. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel, which released in theaters a week ago. I slipped away for a matinee this afternoon, joining a mostly female audience who seemed to be as excited as I was.
Mama Mia Here We Go Again stars Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Jeremy Irvine, Andy Garcia, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Dylan, Colin Firth, Hugh Skinner, Julia Walters, Alexa Davies, Christine Baranski, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Cher, and Meryl Streep. The musical comedy, directed by Ol Parker, carries a PG-13 rating for adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 54 minutes.
Set 5 years after the first film, this story is both a sequel and a prequel. As Sophie (Seyfried) prepares for a grand opening of the fully refurbished hotel, the Bella Donna, on the Greek island that her mother (Streep) settled on years before, she finds herself surrounded by a swirl of conflicting emotions. She suspects she is pregnant. Her husband Sky (Cooper) is away in New York City, learning about hotel management.
One of her fathers, Sam (Brosnan) lives on the island with her, but her other two fathers, Bill (Skarsgard) and Harry (Firth) can’t be present for her big celebration. And her melancholy hotel manager Fernando (Garcia) is predicting that a storm is on its way. If the storm hits, the grand opening party will be ruined. Her mother’s best friends, Rosie (Walters) and Tanya (Baranski) arrive ahead of the storm, ready to bolster Sophie.
As the present day story unfolds, the movie switches back and forth between Sophie and her mother’s backstory. Young Donna (James) graduates from Oxford with her friends and band mates, Rosie (Davies) and Tanya (Wynn). Rather than making plans for the next stage of her life, Donna wants to explore the world, and make some memories.
On her way to Greece, she first encounters Harry (Skinner) and then Bill (Dylan), who takes her by boat to the Greek island that is her destination, and lastly she finds Sam (Irvine). Sam is spending a week on the island, seeking freedom from the obligations and arrangements waiting for him when he returns home. Donna has a romantic encounter with each of the men, however, it is Sam who captures her heart…and then breaks it when he departs, as scheduled. It is later, after Sam leaves, that Donna discovers she is pregnant and makes the decision to remain on the island.
Back in the present day, the storm does arrive, changing the grand opening plans. But Sophie has bigger problems to fret about. She has concerns that she and Sky are growing apart. She feels extremely close to her mother, as she considers her upcoming pregnancy on the island, and yet she feels overwhelmed and very alone.
Ultimately Bill and Harry make it to the island, bringing with them Sky and boats full of out of work fishermen and their families. And Sophie’s grandmother (Cher) makes a surprise appearance at the party, even though she wasn’t invited. Sophie discovers, as her mother did years before, that life can’t be scripted. It can only be embraced and enjoyed.
I had such fun watching this musical. As in the first film, the songs are from ABBA and they are cleverly woven into the storyline. I liked the sequel/prequel format. The audience got to see a youthful Donna meet each of the men who were important in her life, one of whom is Sophie’s biological dad. The young actors playing Sam, Bill and Harry did a great job capturing the older actors’ mannerism and speech patterns, as did the young women who portrayed Donna, Rosie and Tanya. The backstories were well done, and merged beautifully with present day scenes featuring Sophie.
I expected to smile and laugh during this movie. I expected to hum along and tap my foot with ABBA songs. What I didn’t expect were the teary eyed moments and a scene toward the end that created noisy sniffles throughout the theater. I wanted to bawl. My body said nope, not here you won’t.
Overall, Mama Mia Here We Go Again is entertaining, thought provoking and heart warming. I want to see it again and purchase the soundtrack. It is worth sitting through the end credits for the extravagant song and dance number by the cast, and an extra scene after all the names scroll by. The entire audience sat with me until the lights came back up, and then we all clapped. I love a good musical.