'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' review: Karaoke's karaoke

'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' isn’t half as delightful as the original.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Cast: Lily James, Cher + most of the original cast

Director: Ol Parker

Rating: **

First things first: I am a die-hard ABBA fan, and thank them for their music regularly. If my life had a soundtrack, it would either be ABBA’s greatest hits or their love songs.

The title to the sequel to “Mamma Mia” the musical turned into an ABBA singalong movie, is aptly titled Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The second movie in the franchise comes out a decade after the first one did and is a hybrid that tells you the story of the before and after of the original mother-daughter flick.

As the movie opens, you realise that feisty inn-owner Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) has passed away, and the inn is being managed by her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Sophie is dealing with her own personal battles, (revealed one by one), and has named the inn “Bella Donna” in honour of her mother. As you will recall, Mamma Mia dealt with Sophie’s quest to find out who her father was among the three paramours who had courted her mother. Mamma Mia 2 takes you to Donna’s halcyon days of bluer skies and cobalt seas of her youth when she first lands in Greece. Donna in this edition of the franchise is sun-kissed, starry-eyed, effervescent, Goldilocked Lily James, who plays it with all her heart. You cannot help but smile when she is on-screen. Younger Donna backpacks and sails through Europe with a fling here and there until she gives her heart away, and finds she is pregnant after she lands in Greece. How Donna deals with being boyfriend-less and sets up base in Greece all those years ago mingles with Sophie’s life after her mother’s passing in the here and now. Prequel meets sequel.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is lovely in the very visual, heart-warming way as the first movie was. The blue skies are there, as is the thunderstorm, as is heartbreak, as is songs galore, as is happy people prancing around on pristine white sands, as is all’s well that ends well. And the plot here is as flimsy as the first one. Some of the songs from the original find placement here, as they should: Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, I Have a Dream, to name a few. But the story here is constructed, force-fit even, around lesser famous ABBA songs, not the other way around as the original was. Though I was delighted to find one of ABBA’s greatest love ballads, (probably one of the greatest love ballads of all time), “One of Us” and merrily sang along.

Despite rediscovering forgotten ABBA numbers, and some new ones I hadn’t heard before, and all that works here – the camaraderie, acting stalwarts having fun on a Grecian island, pure escapist entertainment – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again isn’t half as delightful as the original. This sequel, in direct comparison, is a bit of a damp squib.

The first movie worked because the enviable star-cast knew they could thank ABBA for the music while being charmingly aware of their ineptitude in the crooning department. Lily James is a far better singer (her rendition of Andante, Andante is ever so lovely) than warbler Amanda Seyfried, tentative Meryl Streep, and I-shouldn’t-sing-if-James-Bond’s-life-depended-on-it Pierce Brosnan. And we have everything-defying Cher to add to the singing quotient here. And that is precisely what ruins what should have been a joyous return to a joyful singalong. Because no one, and I mean no one, can better Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s Fernando. The plot angle to this song is so contrived, you wonder how you didn’t see it coming.

At best, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is a karaoke of a karaoke. Stock up on wine and chips instead, play ABBA’s greatest hits on your stereo/computer, and close your eyes. And pretend you are gallivanting in Greece. Because the first one takes it all.

 

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'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' review: Karaoke's karaoke

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