It maybe the fandom of the first film or the ABBA songs but, when a smile does not leave your face for an entire two-hour-film, then it’s a great film.
The sequel starts with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) honouring her mother’s passing by re-opening her villa as hotel Bella Donna. However, she’s facing several mishaps, from a storm, her father not showing up to the opening, to her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) running off to a mainland job. The film also uses flashbacks to follow young Donna (Lily James) as she gets entangled with three lovers; preppy punk Harry (Hugh Skinner), hunky sailor Bill (Josh Dylan), and blue-eyed daydream Sam (Jeremy Irvine), tying in both timelines at the end.
The plot is not complicated; basically, filling in the gaps about young Donna’s love affairs, while showing how Sophie plans to live on after her mother. The film surprisingly succeeds in connecting both worlds by cleverly using the setting of the island as the link between young Donna and Sophie.
Is the setup of the plot the neatest thing? No, not really. But, it is smooth enough to not bother any member of the audience.
Many fans worried that most of the ABBA songs, at least the most renowned, were used in the first film and feared the sequel would be a repeat. Thankfully that was no the case; only a few songs were repeated, including a reenactment of the “Dancing Queen” dance sequence which just brought the audience to sing along, smile, and reminisce.
The used songs were harder to pair with the plot events, and that is where the film struggled,but also exceled. When Sophie’s grandmother (Cher) randomly sings “Fernando” to an estranged lover, it seemed like the song was just too good to be left out, and so the filmmakers rammed it in anyway. On the other hand, when young Donna performs “I Kissed the Teacher” as a graduation speech, it was a pleasant-on-the money surprise that is ridiculously Donna-like. The film only barely dwindled in this aspect and the musical numbers being all full of life, in tune and capturing the true joyful spirit of the first Mamma Mia that many of us knew and loved, made up for all that.
One thing that did change was the addition of the young cast. Lily James had some huge shoes to fill and she nailed it; with a smile that could light up the entire world, a carefree attitude, and avoiding the common mistake of over the top facial expressions, she was perfect. Major Mamma Mia fans would criticise any actress in the role, but she delivered a performance even better than their imagination. Playing the young versions of Sophie’s dads Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan and Jeremy Irvine were ridiculously handsome. But, Skinner especially stood out in a comical performance of Waterloo. Jessica Keenen Wyn (playing young Tanya) and Alexa Davis playing young Rosie, did a great job with Davis seriously bringing the laughs. The original cast was also great, with outstanding performances from Amanda Seyfried as she brilliantly conveyed her connection to her mother. Julie Walters also stood out as one of the main sources of laughter and relatability in the film.
It may not be perfect, but the Mamma Mia sequel will definitely put you in a better mood and have you singing and dancing for days to come.