Warning: There will be spoilers ahead.
When the first trailers came out for “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” I had three questions. The first, was Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, dead? The second, was it going to be all of the same ABBA songs as the original movie? Third, how old is Cher that she is playing Streep’s mother?
The last question could be answered by a quick Google search, but the first two required I go see the movie for myself and they were both answered within the first five minutes of the film.
No, the plot of the “Mamma Mia!” prequel/sequel (what is the proper term for a movie with equal parts 1970s flashbacks and present day storyline?) was not a particularly scintillating one. It was predictable, cheesy and unoriginal, but it was nostalgic, and I think it’s safe to say that’s how the movie will be making most of its money in the box office.
There was no real explanation given for Donna’s death and subsequently Streep’s absence from the film. It’s known from the timeline that the two movies laid out for us that Donna had her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) when she was a young woman, recently graduated from the University of Oxford. Sophie herself got married relatively young. Donna certainly passed away fairly young, but it was never revealed how.
Throughout Streep’s lengthy and vast acting career, she has never appeared in a sequel film. While this may have played a part in her absence from most of the movie, franchise creator Judy Craymer attributed it to a conscious creative decision.
“I think she felt that she liked the idea of leaving this to the younger ones and she wanted to be involved, but she wasn’t gonna take on such a big role,” Craymer told The Hollywood Reporter.
But with the loss of Streep, the franchise gained a few new faces, as well. Lily James (“Cinderella” and “Baby Driver”) took on the role of Donna from 1979, Jeremy Irvine as young Sam, Josh Dylan as young Bill, Hugh Skinner as young Harry, Jessica Keenan Wynn as young Tanya and Alexa Davies as young Rosie. These newcomers were cast quite well as they were all almost the spitting image of their older selves and fell into the veteran characters’ mannerisms nicely. These casting decisions made the transitions between time periods and storylines smooth and seamless. James, especially, impressed as the fashion-forward free-spirited Donna. Following in the footsteps of an actress as well-versed as Streep must have been intimidating, but the 29 year old delivered an emotionally charged and compelling performance. Not to mention she dazzled as she took the stage with the Dynamos.
James, Keenan Wynn and Davies were just as fun to watch singing their hearts out in disco-era costumes as their older doppelgangers: Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters. While all the old ABBA favorites (“Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “I Have A Dream” and “S.O.S”) made an appearance, so did a few more truly heart-wrenching numbers, notably “My Love, My Life,” sung by Streep and Seyfried towards the end of the movie.
Directors faced a challenge in writing another film plot around pre-existing music, and naturally some of the songs seemed a bit arbitrary or forced, but for the most part the song lyrics were perfectly entwined in the film’s plot twists. While at times it may seem like the characters barely communicate without musical numbers, the few spoken conversations gave some very humorous one liners, especially from the timeless duo, Tanya and Rosie.
Since the jukebox musical released on Friday, ABBA sales have gone up 57 percent as the “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” soundtrack makes waves on the Billboard charts. The movie itself scored 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and has made $76.4 million in box offices globally. Despite the 10 years between films, fans obviously still came out in droves. While the movie certainly had its flaws, it monopolized on everything “Mamma Mia!” got right the first time around, making for an overall enjoyable, fun and lighthearted movie.
Audience members who waited a decade for the sequel certainly had reason to sing the age-old lyric with a little extra vigor this past weekend: Mamma mia, does it show again, my my, just how much we’ve missed you?
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Julia Mancini is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.