Donna (Lily James, Meryl Streep) was never one to follow the rules. After graduating from Oxford, she leaves her best friends Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies) behind to go out and see the world. While making her way through Europe, Donna meets Harry (Hugh Skinner). Donna and Harry share a brief encounter before she moves on. Donna, hoping to make it to Greece, heads off in search of someone to sail her to her destination. She meets Bill (Josh Dylan) who agrees to take her. Once they arrive in Greece, Bill heads off to compete in a race, promising to come back once he is finished.
Donna finds an abandoned farmhouse on a hillside in Greece and decides makes it her home. While in town one day, she meets Sam (Jeremy Irvine) and they quickly fall madly in love. When Donna finds out Sam is engaged, she is heartbroken. The only thing that can raise Donna’s spirits is having Tanya and Rosie come visit.
It has been one year since Donna died. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has been hard at work renovating her mother’s hotel. With a grand reopening coming soon, Sophie is sending out invitations to all her mother’s old friends while Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in New York attending a seminar on hotel management. Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry (Colin Firth) are busy in their lives, leaving only has Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and her hotel manager (Andy Garcia) to lean on for support. Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) show up and help Sophie not only prepare for the opening, but also to learn about her mother’s past. Sophie soon finds that the running the hotel is just as difficult as it was for her mother.
It has been almost 10 years to the day since Mamma Mia! came out, based on the music of ABBA. We watch that film more than we probably should, which means the bar has been set pretty high for a sequel.
In addition to your favorites coming back, we are treated to a handful of actors portraying younger versions of the stars of the original. Lily James is probably as perfect a casting as you could get for a young Meryl Streep. Not only do they have a similar look, James handles every scene masterfully. She is bright and carefree and shows she knows her way around a musical. Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, and Jeremy Irvine don’t exactly look like the younger versions of their characters we were shown in Mamma Mia!, but they serve their roles well. The returning cast of Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters also do well reviving their characters. My biggest complaint isn’t with the casting so much as the reveal in the trailer. If they had held off showing Cher as Sophie’s grandmother, the scene would have been a more impactful. As it is, it comes off as a minor note that we knew was coming.
The film intertwines two stories: Sophie getting the hotel ready for a grand re-opening and a fairly in-depth glance into Donna’s life before Sophie and the hotel. The circumstances of the storyline in the present necessitate it being a more somber film that lacks the whimsy of the original. This doesn’t make it an inferior movie, just giving it an entirely different feel. The scenes of Donna frolicking around the world and the always delightful ABBA score help keep things from getting too dark while not taking away from the weighty undertones.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again isn’t quite the lighthearted fun of the original, but it is a worthy sequel. Some excellent performances mixed with a great soundtrack make it as enjoyable as the first. Much like the first, it is one of those films that could easily become a “guilty pleasure” that you find yourself more often than you would expect.