Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

 

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The feta cheesy jukebox musical phenomenon returns with more songs, sunlight and exuberance to spare.

 

Mamma Mia Here We Go Again

My my, how can we resist you?: Jessica Keenan Wynn, Lily James and Alexa Davies
 

Once upon a time, Meryl Streep was a very, very beautiful Oxford graduate called Donna. In the sequel-cum-prequel to Mamma Mia! (2008), the highest-grossing musical of its time, the young Donna is played by Lily James with a faultless American accent. Having cemented her academic foundations, Donna decides that, “life is short, the world is wide, and I want to make some memories.” So she sets off from Oxford for the City of Light and tumbles into bed with Harry, a charming, gauche English lad (the delightfully funny Hugh Skinner). More dalliances follow (Josh Dylan as Bill, Jeremy Irvine as Sam), until Donna finds herself in a coastal Greek paradise where her real love turns out to be a tumble-down villa overlooking the Aegean. Cue I Have a Dream (“If you see the wonder of a fairy tale/You can take the future even if you fail/I believe in angels…”).

 

These early scenes certainly tick the boxes required of any musical: a high quotient of joy, romantic aspirations, lots of fun and terrific musical numbers. And, if you’re happy to sing along to Abba’s greatest hits, you’re halfway there. The sequel also has some irresistible assets: Lily James, the Croatian landscape (standing in for Greece), dashing young men with their shirts off, a tsunami of feel-good energy and some marvellous supporting turns. Skinner is wonderful as the young Harry, and as the younger versions of Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, both Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn are priceless. There’s also the addition of Richard Curtis, who added some of his magic to the script, and a show-stopping turn from Cher as the world’s most glamorous grandmother.

 

Ultimately, the new film’s virtues leapfrog over the mechanical kitsch of the original and with the aura of Richard Curtis hovering over this dream-fest, one feels that one might be witnessing it all for the first time (with many future helpings on DVD and TV to come). It is all superbly realised by writer-director Ol Parker (he who penned The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), whose elegant segues between the past and present narratives are simply masterly, while the choreography of Anthony Van Laast is sublime. Yet amongst all the nostalgia and bonhomie, there’s a poignant nod to the Greek economy, while the fact that Donna is actually a slut is papered over by the young woman’s endearing appetite for life (winningly realised by Ms James). So, if the raison d'être of a musical is to bring jubilant escapism to a mass audience, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again punches above its weight.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy García, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Cher, Meryl Streep, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Omid Djalili, Celia Imrie, Togo Igawa, Maria Vacratsis, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson.

 

Dir Ol Parker, Pro Judy Craymer and Gary Goetzman, Ex Pro Benny Andersson, Richard Curtis, Phyllida Lloyd, Tom Hanks, Björn Ulvaeus and Rita Wilson, Screenplay Ol Parker, from a story by Catherine Johnson, Richard Curtis and Ol Parker, Ph Robert D. Yeoman, Pro Des James Lewis, Ed Peter Lambert, Music Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Costumes Michele Clapton, Choreography Anthony Van Laast.

 

Playtone/Littlestar Productions/Legendary Entertainment-Universal Pictures.

113 mins. UK/USA. 2018. Rel: 20 July 2018. Cert. PG.