Ten years ago, “Mamma Mia!” felt like the result of one too many shots of ouzo.
Charming on Broadway, it was bonkers on-screen: a romantic comedy set on a Greek island told through ABBA songs warbled by Remington Steele.
How do you top that?
But Swede Jesus, they’ve done it. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is even crazier — Cher’s in it!
What’s more, the movie is significantly improved in every way: singing, casting, cinematography, writing. This sequel has delivered as the campy summer escape the series must be, rather than Meryl Streep’s leaked vacation footage.
A decade after her quest to find her dad, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is reopening mom Donna’s (Streep) taverna on our favorite Greek isle populated by bumbling Brits and the sweet sounds of Scandi pop.
But the hurdles of getting the old place into shape, and the stress of her long-distance relationship with Sky (Dominic Cooper), has Sophie against a wall, sobbing in song.
To add some drama, she’s pregnant, too. The desperate hotelier seeks solace in her mom’s clownish pals (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters). Chiquitita tells ’em what’s wrong, and they tell her about Donna’s own journey to the island during the 1970s.
Way back when, her rocker mom was canoodling with the dashing Bill, Sam and Harry. In the present day, those gents — still respectively played by Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth — aren’t exactly sex bombs.
It’s their younger selves — Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine and Hugh Skinner — who will have you singing “Voulez-Vous,” partly for their smoldering looks and hair so perfectly coiffed it could be animated by Pixar. The trio are also fine singers, and more charismatic than the major stars they took the reins from.
Naturally, all the antics are set to cleverly shoved-in ABBA music. But how could there be any more to mine? The first movie exhausted most of the hits from “ABBA Gold.” “Here We Go Again,” you’d figure, would have to settle for “ABBA Bronze.”
But ABBA popped out tracks like IKEA desk lamps. The fresh tunes, which don’t get the same kind of play at bars today that “Dancing Queen” continues to enjoy, are a scream. “Kisses of Fire,” “When I Kissed the Teacher,” “Andante, Andante” and “Angel Eyes” are all fabulous. The few retreads, such as the title song and “Dancing Queen,” however, should’ve been reconceived more creatively.
Many audience members are still traumatized by Brosnan’s renditions of “SOS” and “When All Is Said And Done” in the first film. James Bond’s singing voice was shaky, not stirring. And rightly mocked. But fear not — here, Brosnan is only handed a verse or two.
If he awakens your post-traumatic stress disorder anyway, hold out for the flick’s two biggest knockouts: Lily James as young Donna, and Cher as Donna’s mom.
In a nice change from Seyfried’s 2008 turn as the ingénue, we want to befriend James’ Donna, not mute her. She’s as gorgeous as she is committed, as funny as she is emotionally true. A big talent.
The film’s highlight — try not to fall off your platform shoes! — has Cher donning a platinum wig, landing at the taverna by helicopter, announcing her presence as if it’s even required, singing “Fernando,” saying a few words and leaving.
It’s so cheesy, you’ll need crackers.
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