BEIRUT: Summertime at the box office continues with the narratively ordinary sequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia – yet it was not necessarily worth the decade long wait.
The film picks up a year after the events of its predecessor with the sudden news that Meryl Streep’s Donna has passed away and her daughter Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, is attempting to reopen her mother’s hotel on a Greek Island.
As the narrative unfolds, the audience is taken down memory lane as they discover the way things came to be with Donna and her three beaus – as love, laughter, and life are embodied on screen.
The tale that is told here, however, is not as memorable or as engaging as the one in the first film.
It suffers from many rushed storylines, some plot holes, and never answers any new questions – the HERE WE GO AGAIN sub-title is quite accurate because nothing new occurred here.
The question of Sophie’s parentage is never clarified, though this could have been the perfect big reveal at the end of the film, and the audience is never told how or why Donna passed away.
Two of love affairs are spoken about in the first film, here feel more like one night stands, and the true love affair is not given enough time to properly develop and emotionally engage its audience.
Lilly James, who plays younger Donna/Streep, does deliver on the role and is quite a joy to watch much like Streep was in the first film.
Her embodiment of Donna Sheridan is believable and enjoyable – yet what audiences may have thought about Donna’s younger years after watching the first film may not have been what they received here.
The rest of the cast is good yet it is Julie Waters, Christine Baranski and their younger versions Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn that steal the show, not Cher’s over-marketed and pointless cameo.
Visually, this film plays with the going back and forth from past to present in quite a flawless and smooth way.
The flashbacks don’t come off as gimmicky, but rather as beautifully crafted transitions that flow organically from narrative events or locations of the scenes.
What does come off as a device, however, is the inclusion of the songs.
Where the first film succeeded, due to its source material being a Broadway musical, this film and narrative suffer from being built around the songs and not vice versa.
Some of the songs in MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN feel out of place and sometimes even feel untimely, to the point where it could deliver quite a negative “here we go again” reaction.
MAMMA MIA also had the advantage of using some of ABBA’s most famous and popular songs, whereas the sequel is now forced to include songs that may not have been so popular or known, which could be a negative marker on the film’s overall appeal to the audience.
This film is not free of flaws, but it does have a strange charm to it, which could easily be the music and not the story or the characters.
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN will not garner any awards, nor will it be a film that you will entirely remember in years to come; nonetheless, it's a film that will have you smiling throughout and might even tug at your heartstrings, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what summer films are meant to do?
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