Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with “Mamma Mia!”
I watched the movie for the first time in kindergarten and promptly memorized all the songs in the soundtrack. In third grade, I had a “Mamma Mia!” themed birthday party. In fifth grade, I modeled my entire wardrobe after Amanda Seyfried’s character, Sophie, and when I got my license and inherited a 10-year-old Subaru Outback, I named her Meryl, after Meryl Streep, the three-time academy award winner, and 18-time nominee.
So, once I heard that they were coming out with a sequel, my sister and I rushed into our living room, where we had a celebratory dance party to hits such as “Dancing Queen,” “Honey, Honey,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” and of course “Mamma Mia.”
My intense adoration of the 2008 romance/musical is not just based off of the catchy tunes or an idyllic set (although those certainly help); the fundamental elements of the movie, such as the casting, electric acting, kitschy dance scenes bring it to life.
The movie was based on a musical written by English playwright Catherine Johnson in 1999. She used some of the most popular songs from ABBA, a Swedish pop group formed in 1972, to structure her plot.
This is impressive because most musicals feature original songs that actually correlate to the storyline of the musical, but Johnson wrote the plot around the songs, which explains why the storyline is a bit wonky. But hey, I still love it.
What really stole the show was the casting. A lot of times in movies, supporting roles are given to less talented actors and actresses. However, in “Mamma Mia!”, the supporting roles, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) are incredibly talented and hold their ground next to one of the most talented actresses of all time, Meryl Streep. That’s not easy.
I typically hate to rewatch things, but I must have seen “Mamma Mia!” at least two hundred times at this point. I can keep rewatching it because every time I do, I notice something different: a line in a song, a funny dance move or new expressions on actor’s faces.
“Mamma Mia!” was never designed to be a groundbreaking, Oscar-winning movie. It’s a light, feel-good movie. I believe that that’s what the director, Phyllida Lloyd, was aiming for, and she nailed it.
It is with these high expectations that I walked into a movie theater, eager to see “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”. Maybe that was my mistake. Maybe my expectations were just too high and that’s why I was severely disappointed. Or maybe the movie was just so aggressively mediocre it hurt.
I had my suspicions that it wasn’t going to be as good as the original, because, first of all, it was filmed in Croatia, not Greece. Automatically loses points for authenticity. It was also both a sequel and a prequel, which never works out that well. Most concerning, I had heard rumors that Meryl Streep had a limited role in this film. “Mamma Mia!” without Meryl? It couldn’t be!
The movie starts as Sophie is reopening up Villa Donna, the hotel her mother, Donna, ran before her death a year prior. She’s missing her mother; she and Sky get into a fight, the movie starts with lots of unnecessary drama.
The movie then flashes back to 1979, when a young Donna, Rosie and Tanya are graduating together from Oxford. It is here where Donna jumps on stage and performs the opening musical number, “When I Kissed the Teacher.”
Maybe it’s because I didn’t know the song, or I felt that it was too much of a superficial addition to the movie, but I just didn’t love it. I liked it well enough, but it didn’t make me laugh out loud or want to get up and dance myself.
Most, if not all, of the musical bits were like this. It was mainly just the characters looking out into the distance and singing to themselves. It was too dramatic and angsty, and at some points, boring.
Even though the back and forth in time part was done really well, the plot was hard to follow since it switched from future to past so much. The setup and the climax of the movie were super dramatic and intense, but the resolution was so simple it was boring. It was much too harsh a juxtaposition, and the plot didn’t blend well.
The costumes and set in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” were also lacking. The hotel, Villa Donna, was beautiful, but it looked nothing like the hotel from the first movie, and it didn’t seem very “Greek” to me.
The costumes, too, were insufficient. The first movie was in part so iconic because it was set on a picturesque Greek island. Although costumes and sets in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” were cool, they weren’t Greek, and for a movie that is well known for being set in Greece, I was disappointed.
Finally, the acting. Although Meryl was barely in the movie, her one scene gave me chills. She once again brought love and life and a certain matronly beauty to her character, Donna. Also definitely worth mentioning: Lily James as young Donna. Playing a young Meryl Streep must be intimidating, those are big shoes to fill, but she did so excellently. She brought so much energy to the character; it livened up the entire movie.
Christine Baranski and Julie Walters killed it, and Colin Firth was hilarious as Harry. Pierce Brosnan once again gave the whole singing thing his best shot, and although I don’t think he quite got there, I admire his effort.
I was disappointed by Amanda Seyfried. I thought she did an amazing job in the first movie, but in the second, I just thought she was mundane. Maybe that’s the way the character was written, but I didn’t see any of the spunk she had in the first movie.
All in all, I was pretty disappointed by the entire film. Maybe my love for the original “Mamma Mia!” is so intense that anything else pales in comparison, but ultimately what I love about the original is that it brings tears to your eyes, a smile to your face and it makes you want to get up and dance. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was just inferior on all counts.