Easily one of the all-time worst movie musicals, 2008s “Mamma Mia!” was flawed on so many levels, including the horrible casting, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
How about this, incompetent filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd chose “Mamma Mia!” as her feature film debut and failed so miserably she wasn’t invited back to direct the prequel/sequel. That’s just one of the inexcusable examples of how dreadful “Mamma Mia!” was, and yet, it somehow worked onstage. Perhaps it was because, in the case of the original Broadway production for example, they were less concerned with mega-star-power and relied on talented and experienced cast members, including Karen Mason and Judy Kaye, to perform the familiar ABBA songs.
The fact that a prequel/sequel was warranted is, in itself, a mystery. But here it is -- “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (Universal) – in all its cheesy and unnecessary glory. As insipid as it was, at least “Mamma Mia!” had the original stage musical script from which to work.
In the case of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, we find our kooky cast of characters feeling the after effects of the death of “Mamma” matriarch Donna. Daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has converted the old homestead on the Greek isle of Kalokairi into the Hotel Bella Donna as a tribute to her mother. Meanwhile, hot hubby Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in New York learning about the hotel trade. Let’s call this conflict number one.
Sophie has assembled a guest list for the opening of the hotel including Donna’s old performing partners Tanya (Christine Baranski, who singlehandedly has the funniest line in the entirely too long almost two-hour movie) and Rosie (Julie Walters, who deserves better than this), as well as her three fathers Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry (Colin Firth). Excluded from the guest list is Las Vegas showgirl grandmother Ruby (Cher). Everything at the soon-to-be opened hotel is looked after by manager Fernando (Andy Garcia).
A reunion of this sort is the perfect opportunity to interweave the backstory of the main characters. Via a multitude of abuses of ABBA songs, in which the lyrics are stitched (read: forced) into the script, we watch as young Donna (Lily James) leaves school chums young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies) behind for her personal adventure. First, she meets bumbling young Harry (Hugh Skinner), who offers Donna his virginity. Next is sexy sailor young Bill (Josh Dylan), who gets the perpetually late Donna to Kalokairi when she misses the ferry. Last, but certainly not least, is hot architect Sam (Jeremy Irvine, who looks like a UK version of the late Anton Yelchin), who is obviously the one to whom she is most attracted. That is, until she finds out he’s engaged.
As the story moves back and forth, various situations, meant to be humorous (but are not), romantic, complicated, emotional and educational arise. Didn’t you always wonder how Donna got her trademark overalls? “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” answers that and many other burning questions.
However, for a movie that makes a point of setting its past scenes in a specific time frame (1979), it doesn’t appear to be all that concerned with the mathematical accuracies of time when it comes to the present. When Sophie confronts Ruby who, you guessed it, shows up at the grand opening festivities regardless of not being welcome, telling her she’s 25 years too late for her role as a grandmother, the math simply doesn’t add up in the correct way. For example, if, as the story indicates, Sophie was born circa 1980, she'd be 38 now, thereby making Cher's character not only 38 years too late, but at least 80 years old. That’s just one of the too-many-to-count inconsistencies in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”.
Additionally, everything feels slap-dash and lazy, including Ol Parker’s disappointing direction, the klutzy choreography and clunky editing. Plus, if you didn’t guess Andy Garcia’s character was the inspiration for Ruby to sing “Fernando” (they had a fling many years before), then perhaps you need to put down the popcorn and pay closer attention.
Whatever you do, don’t go to see “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”.