Available this Tuesday, October 23, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reunites the cast from the original 2008 film starring Meryl Streep. Mamma Mia is a jukebox musical. It originally premiered on the stage in 1999 and featured the songs of ABBA (written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus). The new film can be viewed on its own, but it helps to know the basic plot of the original: On a small Greek isle Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), about to be married to Sky (Dominic Cooper), wants to learn who is her biological father. She has narrowed the possiblity down to three of her mother Donna's (Meryl Streep) former flames: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth), or Bill (Stellan Skarsgård). Donna's two best friends and former bandmates of their girl group Donna and the Dynamos (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) arrive for the festivities, as well as the three potential dads, and the cast cheerfully work out the romantic antics to the backdrop of beautiful scenery and classic ABBA songs.
Ten years after the first film was a huge box-office hit, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is both a sequel and a prequel. Also set ten years after the events of the first film, viewers get to catch up with Sophie and see where she and the other characters are now. It is also a prequel, intercutting scenes of a young Donna (Lily James) and the Donnas (Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies) traveling to Greece post-college. But most imortantly, it showcases how Donna met Sophie's "three dads" Sam, Harry, and Bill (Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan). The film is cast superbly. All the younger incarnations of the original cast look and act as we might imagine they would, without becoming caricatures. Amanda Seyfried has grown both as an actress and a singer as Sophie. Her voice is enchanting, especially on "One of Us" wth Dominic Cooper, and "My Love, My Life" with Lily James and Meryl Streep. But Lily James is the true standout as the younger version of Donna. Not only can she sing, but she has effortless, boundless charm. The film picks up whenever she is onscreen.
Donna and the Dynamos: L-R: Jessica Keenan Wynn, Lily James, and Alexa Davies
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is definitely enjoyable, but it seems a little stilted compared to the first film. I learned from the disc extras that the original film based its choreography on the theatrical show, while this one had to be created from scratch and improvised. I'm afraid it shows. Some of the dance numbers, especially one set to "Waterloo" in a large Parisian restaurant with young Donna and Harry, looks very staged. Things improve, both choreographically and pace-wise once she arrives in Greece. Another strange note were the costumes, which I found very confusing. The prequel scenes are set in 1979, but Donna and the Donnas wear clothes much more suggestive of early '70s glam rock and hippie culture. The character of Harry, who is British, is supposed to be a punk, but the cropped leather jacket he wears - nope. This may sound like quibbling, but a movie that is primarily visual and musical, and above all things, nostalgic, should try to keep its timeline at least relatively consistent with the times it is portraying - not to mention the first film it is based on.
Note to Meryl Streep fans - she doesn't feature as much in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as she does in the first film, but when she does show up - be prepared for an emotional wallop. Still a great actress, whether she is speaking or singing. Cher comes in near the end to lend her star power to a strange but wonderful rendition of "Fernando." Fans who loved the first film will most likely love this one, too. Director Ol Parker includes an extra special treat at the end, with a "curtain call" which includes the entire cast performing "Super Trouper."
In related Mamma Mia news, after filming, Cher, a self-professed ABBA fan, released an entire album of ABBA songs, Dancing Queen, last month. And on Saturday, October 27, The IMDb Show will host a Mamma Mia sing-a-long party at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT). So plenty of reasons to get your ABBA on.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo has a running time of 1 hour, 45 minutes and comes with over an hour's worth of extra footage that adds to the package, including:
- Deleted/Extended songs
- Enhanced sing-a-longs
- Behind-the-scenes featurettes: "Cast Meets Cast", "Chats with the Cast", "High Jinks", "Sophie's Story", "Choreographing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again", "Dancing Queen: Anatomy of a Scene", "Performing for Legends", "Class of '79" "Mamma Mia! Reunted", "Playing Donna", "Meeting Cher", "Costumes and the Dynamos"
- Commentary from Director/Writer Ol Parker and Producer Judy Craymer
- NBC Today Show Interview with Cher and Judy Craymer
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again looks bright and fun on a large-scale high-definition television screen. The film is rated PG-13 for some suggestive material. Specifications: Blu-ray/4K Ultra HD, DVD: Widescreen 16:9 2.40:1. It also sounds great. Sound Blu-ray/4K Ultra HD: English Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital 2.0, Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, French Canadian Dolby Digital Plus 7.1; Sound DVD: English Dolby Dolby Digital 5.1, Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Canadian Dolby Digital 5.1; Blu-ray/4K Ultra HD, DVD Language/Subtitles: English SDH, French Candian, and Latin American Spanish subtitles
A digital version of the movie is also included, and can be streamed or downloaded via the Movies Anywhere app.