The overt corniness of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” doesn’t prove to be this half-baked sequel’s downfall. It’s not even the melodramatic talky bits sandwiched between the rollicking and cheerfully staged song and dance numbers. It’s the almost painful feeling that this thin and uninspired musical is an obvious cash grab that serves zero purpose in expanding on the characters or the original story. It’s just plain lazy.
The film jumps back and forth in time to show Donna (Meryl Streep) as a young and wild woman (Lily James) of the late 1970s. We see the meet-cute origin stories of her three dreamboat suitors: Harry (Colin Firth / Hugh Skinner), Sam (Pierce Brosnan / Jeremy Irvine), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård / Josh Dylan). Even her ride-or-die best buddies Rosie (Julie Walters / Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Christine Baranski / Jessica Keenan Wynn) make a welcome appearance. Admittedly, it’s a real hoot to see the younger versions of these characters, and all perfectly cast at that. The young men are all charmers, and the talented James provides the bright light that keeps the film afloat.
There’s a feeble attempt at a side plot about Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her relationship troubles with Sky (Dominic Cooper) as she tries to open her mother’s dream hotel, a convenient struggle that provides the means for everyone to reconvene on the Greek island. The film also glosses over some really gigantic plot holes (I guess young Harry gave up and never tried to catch a later ferry)?
As far as cinematic musicals go this isn’t one of the very worst, but it’s far from being an instant classic. Even the most enjoyable toe-tapping moments can’t overcome the lack of energy and excitement, with flat performances and mostly bland renderings of ABBA classics like “Waterloo” and “Fernando.” Nobody seems eager to be part of this project, in particular Brosnan, who stumbles wide-eyed through a very minor (and nearly pointless) supporting role. Even worse is the big cameo from Cher as grandmother Ruby. Watching her attempt to sing (her face doesn’t move at all!) is an exercise in why plastic surgery is a big no-no.
While far better than the original 2008 film on which it’s based, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is just another lackluster sequel. This dull musical is a huge letdown.