You don’t need us to remind you that these are unprecedented times. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have a little too much free time on our hands and anxiety about the ongoing lockdown. But, thankfully, we have movies. A heartfelt romance or an alternate universe, there’s something for any mood, and one in particular might have just come at exactly the right time. What’s better than a musical extravaganza with a joyously blatant disregard for reality? We’ll answer that for you: nothing.
As of June 26, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is available on Netflix UK and on HBO Max in the US. Released an entire decade after the original 2008 Mamma Mia!, this sequel-prequel hybrid that's once again built around ABBA's discography left everyone dancing out of theatres. Spending half of the time in 1979, the second movie follows a young Donna – played by Meryl Streep in the original and vividly brought back to life here by Lily James – as she travels the world in search of meaning after graduation. Along the way, she sings some songs and meets some handsome strangers: Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Harry (Hugh Skinner).
Meanwhile, in the present day, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is trying to finish what her late mother Donna started and make the newly renovated Hotel Bella Donna the best it can be. But is putting all her energy into her mother’s dream robbing her of her own, or just bringing them closer? The way to solve this moral conundrum is to sing about it of course!
Here We Go Again is full of cheesy choreography and old-school mirrored shots, but it’s impossible not to fall in love with its earnestness. The preposterous ways in which some songs are shoe-horned into the story (Cher spying Andy Garcia from across the veranda and erupting into a glitzy rendition of "Fernando" – yes please) come across as though writer-director Ol Parker knew exactly what he was doing. It’s all-knowing, as though encouraging you to laugh along and delight in just how cringe-worthy it all is. This is not a serious movie; this is pure fun bottled up for consumption.
The fact that most of the male cast can’t sing and don’t have an ounce of rhythm only adds to the charm; they’re having the time of their lives and who would stop them? When Hugh Skinner as a young Colin Firth talk-sings his way through the iconic "Waterloo", dancing on tables and making visual puns, I found myself thinking… do I actually prefer this to the ABBA version? (Probably!)
Lily James, too, as young Donna is as charming as ever. She’s so full of life that you just can’t fault everyone in this movie for falling in love with her. Equally, the supporting cast, including Donna’s friends Rosie and Tanya (both young and old) are note-perfect, with endearing banter and physical comedy abound. I could continue and list every cast member and how great they are, of course, but you should really see for yourself.
Though Here We Go Again will lift you into the clouds with joy, we must be honest about one thing: it will also leave you a sobbing wreck. As mentioned, Sophie lost her mother before the events of this film, and she’s still finding her feet without her. When Sophie discovers her pregnancy, she suddenly feels that their journeys have paralleled and brought them closer than ever. Cue a moment that will leave you scrambling for the tissues. The sequel we waited a decade for brought the toe-tapping tunes as well as an emotional gut punch. What else can we say but thank you for the music?