It’s been a decade since Mamma Mia! took to our screens, much to the delight of ABBA fans and bored housewives around the world. Now, just months after the Swedish pop powerhouse announced that they will soon be releasing their first new music in 35 years, what better way to celebrate than with a sequel to the musical masterpiece.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again flutters between two storylines: in the present we follow the struggles of now-married Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she prepares for the opening of her own hotel on the Greek island of Kalokairi. However, the central plot of the film revolves around a young Donna (Lily James), Meryl Streep’s character from the original, in 1979 as she tries to find her place in the world. Meeting three dashing gents on the way, she inevitably ends up on Kalokairi pregnant with Sophie, aptly segueing into the events of the first film.

The film’s star-studded ensemble returns along with a few big additions. The younger versions of Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgård, Walters and Baranski generally find the right balance between impersonation and caricature when it comes to replicating their older equivalents, often to hilarious effect. Whilst there are bum notes in terms of singing, it’s nowhere near as common or pronounced as some of the faults found in the original, with the worst culprits receiving considerably less screen time. Any poor vocals are also massively overshadowed by the natural skill on show from Seyfried, Streep and Cher but in particular James, who is absolutely stellar throughout; endearing, charming and sensationally talented, she is the epitome of a perfect musical lead.

The score feels strangely more like a proper musical too, as opposed to the original which is essentially classic ABBA songs wrapped in a loose plot. Instead of an hour and a half of wall to wall bangers, which admittedly makes for a great cheesy sing-a-long, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again delves into ABBAs back catalogue and leaves more room for genuine emotion, storytelling and humour. The songs on display are chosen to compliment what’s happening on screen, rather than being shoehorned in as fan favourites. When the heavy hitters do arrive, they come with a bang, making them all the more special. This is further aided by the film’s improved choreography and cinematography which feels far more slick, varied and bigger in scale than its predecessor.

Rather than try to emulate the euphoria of belting out ABBAs biggest hits provided ten years ago, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is almost forced to be something more. And it certainly delivers, providing what is undoubtedly a technically better film, and arguably a more enjoyable and heartfelt musical. It is less of a guilty pleasure and more of a legitimately entertaining experience; exactly what you want from a summer evening with your mates.

5 stars

Image Credit: Movie DB

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