Immediately banishing any fears of an awkwardly furtive approach in the creation of a sequel, the hotly awaited – unequivocally unnecessary – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again opens with a leonine Lily James taking the reigns as young Oxford-graduate Donna Sheridan (previously portrayed by Meryl Streep) as we are transported back to the summer of 1979; where the tangled love-affair of Mamma Mia! (2008) begins.
The story shifts intermittently between Donna’s wanderlust-fuelled adventures of ’79 and her daughter Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) present day efforts to plan a grand re-launch party for the posthumously named ‘Bella Donna Hotel’, with Robert Yeoman’s splendid cinematography and Anne Dudley’s nostalgic Greek-folk timbre seamlessly blending the two timelines.
Whilst Mamma Mia! was the recipient of some heavy criticism, surprisingly extending itself to twenty-one-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep, the self-acceptingly frivolous plot-wobble of the sequel makes no hesitation in concealing its intentions; flirting with moments of profanity in its superficial attempts to legitimate the sequel-prequel. However, it is only from the introduction of a certain Academy Award winner (Meryl didn’t win them all) that the absurdity levels spike and we are forced to embrace the madness – and euphoria – as we engulf ourselves in the ridiculous splendour of Ol Parker’s ABBA-orientated tale.
This, of course, is thanks to the phenomenon that is Cher (and not just for the music); whose general corporeal existence within public thought proves adequate to the point that, in lieu of character creation (an internationally renowned super star, by the way), plays little more than a fictionalised version of herself – which proves more than enough, claiming responsibility for the films ability to function, and thrive. And this is completely transparent; you could be generally forgiven for assuming that the blades of Ruby Sheridan’s chopper weren’t heard until the 83rd minute of the film because Cher herself was actually just running a bit late, after all, how else would her private car have made it to the island ahead of her arrival?
Despite a conscious descent into absurdity, rest assured that, alongside the uplifting bangers, we are still hit with enough melancholy to find ourselves wiping tears from the pits of grief during moments of incandescent splendour. This is seen in Sam’s (Pierce Brosnan) heart-wrenching croons over his recently deceased wife to the chorus of ‘SOS’ – a number that exposed Brosnan’s distinct register and left the audience close to lighting flares as they quivered back into their seats during the first instalment. The Mamma Mia! tale is still about the bond of mother and daughter; of choosing a pathway in life based on the love of someone, or something; of choosing love over practicality; of the harsh-realities of high-flying, vest-wearing, coffee-drinking New York masculinity.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again doesn’t strive to be anything more than it is: a somewhat convoluted and discrepant film contrived for the purpose of exhibiting even more ABBA songs by a terrific cast full of vivacity and flair. Only through the hyperaware acquiescence of all that hard-earned acerbic insight you’ve managed to read and replicate can one truly appreciate the magically soul-lifting quality of this ABBA-infused triumph. Fun, demonstrably, is the name of the game, and if you can accept the profanity that is Cher (b. 1946) mothering a digitally edited brown-eyed Meryl Streep (b. 1949), then this film is nothing short of brilliant.
Image: Courtney via Wikipedia Commons