Movie Review: 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' (2018)

There’s no getting around it. “Mamma Mia 2” is well worth the decade-long wait. The sequel to the exhilarating original is a narrative necessity that helps viewers understand the present by visiting the past. Picking up not too many years after the events of the first film, Donna has passed away and Sophie is reopening her late mother’s hotel. There is also conflict in her relationship with Sky as the couple disagrees about where their future should be.

Right off the bat, viewers know they will be in for an emotional ride as Sophie works to celebrate and honor her mom’s life. As the movie effortlessly weaves between the past and present, the audience gets to see Donna’s relationship with each of her previously introduced suitors unfold.

Explaining how exactly Donna came to know and share intimacy with each guy unravels the personal mystery at the core of the movie series.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” does not shed any official light on Sophie’s paternity, but it does give you a better perspective on how the paternity question mark came to be. Just as the original film heavily revolved around Donna’s relationships with Sam, Bill, and Harry so does the sequel. As it explains how these disparate relationships came to be in the first place.

The flashback element of the movie is the lead story here, which is a gamble that pays off as the familiar tale unfolds in unexpected ways that provide keen insight into the story that played out in the original “Mamma Mia.”

The invigorating soundtrack supplied by ABBA is the star attraction here, as one phenomenal song after another plays to enthralling wonder. ABBA is one of the greatest bands of all-time and their rich catalog never ceases to amaze in this dazzling showcase.

The cast in the flashbacks is exceptional, though they slightly depart from the present-day actors. Making things more complicated is that some of the prequel actors are cast to look and sound just like the present-day actors, while some are not.

It is an incongruity that while curious, quickly fades away given the mannerisms and other performance attributes being so strong among the prequel cast.

[Image by Universal Pictures]

The heart of both “Mamma Mia” movies is Amanda Seyfried, whose performance as Sophie is equally as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking in “Here We Go Again.” Her ability to move through an ocean's worth of emotions with a single glance is one of her greatest gifts as an actor and that talent extends to her musical abilities.

Seyfried is one of those rare vocal performers who can act out a song as well as she sings it, her voice breaking with waves of subtle emotion.

While Seyfried’s vocals are incredible throughout; her performances of “I’ve Been Waiting for You” and “My Love, My Life” are stunningly profound. Each breathtaking in ways that are understated and perfectly synched to the emotion she portrays in the scenes they exist in.

Complimenting Amanda Seyfried’s energy is Lily James’ magnificent turn as a 20-something Donna. James’ vocal performance is as sublime as her acting. A live wire, her turn brings added gravity to the movie’s later chapters.

Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and Stellan Skarsgรฅrd all make welcomed returns alongside Christine Baranski and Julie Walters. You see them less in “Mamma Mia 2,” which is the film’s most bittersweet component. The flashback story is excellent, although it means missing out on seeing the original cast.

While having a prequel element in the sequel may seem as though it presses pause on the sequel’s narrative progression, it does not. And Cher and Andy Garcia are fantastic scene-stealing additions to the present-day storyline.

The script is eloquent, masterfully balancing the comedy with the hard-hitting dramatic moments that take your breath away. In those moments you can practically feel the majesty of Richard Curtis’ screenwriting. The familiar fervor of his film “About Time” is so present it is impossible to miss the symmetry.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is one of those movies that feed the soul. It is a funny, sweet, and moving experience that hits all of the human elements a story should hold.

While romance comes and goes throughout, the bond between Sophie and her mother remains its tear-inducing cornerstone. One of the best sequels to come around in a long time, "Mamma Mia 2" is an enchanting follow-up that yearns to be seen again.

Rating: 9.5/10

[Featured Image by Universal Pictures]