It’s the same sunny, hummy territory as the 2008 original, but it’s oddly better this time around; credit writer/director Ol Parker, and the way that a familiar recipe often improves after you’ve made it a few times. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
If ever a movie came with a preselected audience, it is “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” which is basically the original “Mamma Mia” movie again, plus Cher. If that sounds like hell-plus-popcorn to you, you will undoubtedly not be attending — as is the case for someone at my house who wondered aloud why the new movie is using all the same ABBA songs again. (Because when you write them correctly the first time, you don’t NEED any more, that’s why. No more questions.)
It’s the same sunny, hummy territory as the 2008 original, but it’s oddly better this time around; credit writer/director Ol Parker, and the way that a familiar recipe often improves after you’ve made it a few times. Once again, we have a sunny Greek island (actually Croatia); once again, we have Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her various dads experiencing picturesque crises; once again, every inhabitant of this island seems to be part of a free-flowing flash mob, ready at any moment to drop everything and prance around on a hilltop waving their arms while singing “Dancing Queen.” I’m not going to summarize the plot for you, because really that is the plot: ABBA songs, strung together, with wine.
There’s nothing at all wrong with any of this (anyone who disagrees stopped reading at the first paragraph, right?), and I’m here to tell you that this movie brought me more helpless giggles than anything I’ve seen in a while. Among its pleasures: national treasure Christine Baranski, flitting about like a mad butterfly and giving every one of her lines an astringently naughty spin; Andy Garcia in a dapper hat, maintaining his dignity while saying things like “I have made my peace with pain”; a goofy rendition of “Waterloo” (is there any other kind?) in a restaurant complete with a statue of Napoleon; Pierce Brosnan’s endearingly awful singing of “S.O.S.”; a brief Meryl Streep appearance that’s so sweet you just might get teary; and the immortal line “I feel a storm is coming,” which I thought was code for the arrival of Cher. (I was mistaken; she shows up later, singing “Fernando” with such dusk-toned fervor that it suddenly becomes quite clear exactly what happened on “that fateful night we crossed the Rio Grande.” Is that what the kids are calling it these days?)
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None of this will win Oscars, or should (though Baranski deserves a nomination for her delivery of one line alone; you’ll know which), but “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: sweet, silly, sun-splashed absurdity, with a thumping disco beat. The world is a mess these days; some of us might just need this movie. Can you hear the drums, Fernando?
★★★ “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” with Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Stellan Skarsgård, Cher, Meryl Streep. Written and directed by Ol Parker, based on the musical “Mamma Mia!” 113 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material. Opens July 20 at multiple theaters.