If you’re looking for the perfect summer film, look no further than “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018). The sequel to the first “Mamma Mia” (2008) film takes us back to a beautiful Greek island with both returning and new cast members who look like they’re having the time of their lives. It’s a film full of friendship, summer love, cute boho outfits, and Lily James dancing and cartwheeling through a field. Maybe being stuck in quarantine makes the idea of moving to a Greek island on a whim even more appealing. This movie musical, written and directed by Ol Parker, follows two timelines. We find the characters from the first film a year after Donna’s death with Sophie trying to sort out the issues in her relationship with Sky and getting ready for the reopening of her mother’s newly renovated hotel. We also are taken back in time to see Donna graduate from the University of Oxford and follow her heart to Greece where she feels she’s meant to go. And of course, as we know from the first movie, she meets three very different but equally charming men: Harry, Bill, and Sam.
“It’s a film full of friendship, summer love, cute boho outfits, and Lily James dancing and cartwheeling through a field.”
It’s hard to imagine a movie with more perfect summer vibes than this one. Not only is it set during the season, but it seems to embody everything that a perfect summer should be. The costuming by Michele Clapton is a beautiful and colorful mix of platform shoes, boas, bell bottoms, spandex, flowery flowy pants, peasant tops, floppy hats, and bralettes. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, with lots of fantastic shots on the water. Another admirable thing about the film is that neither it nor the characters in it shame Donna for sleeping with three men in a short period of time. Part of what makes this film so appealing is the fantastic cast. While Meryl Streep is largely absent from the film, Lily James does a perfect job of capturing all of Donna’s charm. She seems to be a human ray of sunshine, with a very passable singing voice and a great American accent. In fact, the casting of all the younger versions of characters is impeccable. Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine definitely capture the spirit of Harry, Bill, and Sam, but even more impressive are Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn who are dead-ringers for a younger Rosie and Tanya and also have very believable chemistry with James as the three Dynamos.
“It’s hard to imagine a movie with more perfect summer vibes than this one. Not only is it set during the season, but it seems to embody everything that a perfect summer should be.”
Much of the returning cast seem more comfortable in their roles this time around. Pierce Brosnan, playing the grieving widower Sam, embodies the perfect dad and his performance is so touching that it makes you forget that he still really can’t sing. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are once again a perfect match and provide lots of humor in the film, especially when they perform “Angel Eyes.” The music by ABBA is just as great, and perhaps better performed, as in the first “Mamma Mia” film. Some songs from the first one are heard again in different contexts. “Dancing Queen” with Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard dancing on a boat and even doing the “Titanic” pose and a flamboyant “Waterloo” sequence in a Parisian café as a young Harry tries to seduce Donna are highlights. But the new numbers also integrate seamlessly and provide a lot of fun. Cher appears as Donna’s mother, largely to sing the song “Fernando” to Andy Garcia. What more could you want from a film? And Dylan and James singing “Why Did It Have to Be Me?” on a boat is surely one of the hottest scenes ever filmed. It’s not a perfect film. There are lots of plot holes and things that don’t line up with the first film. The script has some issues and there’s also the problem of the film having killed off its main character off-screen. But it’s saved by a genuinely moving story and a delightful cast and great editing to blend the two timelines by Peter Lambert. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” somehow manages to be both a fun film about summer love and a touching film about grief, family, and finding yourself. You will want to dance and sing along and if you’re anything like me, you’ll also cry (multiple times). There are rumors that a third film in the franchise may be in the works. If you missed this film when it came out two years ago, now is the perfect time to catch up with it and travel to Greece in the only way you currently can.