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August 24, 2018

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! (2018) --- “We Thought We Heard The Last Of An All ABBA Musical. Well, Here We Go Again.”

Plot Summary
In 1979 young Donna, Tanya and Rosie graduate from Oxford University -- leaving Donna free to embark on a series of adventures throughout Europe. On her journeys, she makes the acquaintances of Harry, Bill and Sam -- the latter whom she falls in love with, but he's also the man who breaks her heart. In the present day, Donna's pregnant daughter, Sophie, dreams of renovating a taverna while reuniting with her mother's old friends and boyfriends on the Greek island of Kalokairi. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Mamma Mia (2008) is not your typical musical. It’s based off the play that doesn’t have a sequel and is based on the 70’s music by the Swedish pop group, ABBA. I was 13 when I saw the first film in theaters with my mother and I fell in love with film, especially since I grew listening to classic songs from the 70’s and 80’s. But after 9 years I resigned myself to the fact that there was never going to be a sequel film. Two of ABBA’s members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson, who produced and had a cameo in both films, were proud of Mamma Mia (2008) being a global box office hit that they did not feel or want a sequel. However, 7 or 8 years later they were presented with the sequel’s script by Ol Parker and Richards Curtis, and from there the sequel film was born.

     Mamma Mia 2! Here We Go Again (2018) is a fun and upbeat film that is both the sequel and prequel we have been waiting for. Here we not only learn about Donna’s (Meryl Streep, Lily James) past and how she meets Sophie’s three possible dads (Harry, Bill, and Sam) but we also get to see Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who is preparing for the grand opening of her hotel in honor of her mother.
     The screenplay has a Godfather Part II feel to it as it jumps between Young Donna (like Robert De Niro as Young Vito) and Sophie (like Al Pacino as Michael), the only difference being that this is a fun and entertaining musical. At the heart of the story, Mamma Mia is about escaping from the real world with smiles and song. The first film is more about fun and craziness, while this film is more about laying your emotions out on the table. The story is about the love of family and how a family should be there for one another, no matter what and that is what we see here.
     Although one could get by without having seen the first film I feel that you would miss some Easter Eggs throughout the film. First, As Donna sings “When I Kissed The Teacher” as her graduation speech we can see ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus as one of the teachers on stage. Second & Third, right before Young Harry (Hugh Skinner) and Young Donna (Lily James) sing “Waterloo” we hear a piano cover of “Our Last Summer” – from the first film – playing in the background by Benny Anderson one the members of ABBA. There are more Easter eggs but I save those for when you watch the film.
     The film hints that Donna is dead but I am glad that they never actually said how she died, simply that she was. The filmmakers said that Meryl’s absence was not due to conflicting schedules as they said they were willing to wait however long it took for Meryl to be in the film. The reason she was absent was simply that that was the story they came up with and Merly with 100% on board. By doing this, the filmmakers show that the film is not about old Donna or any of the characters, but instead, the film is about the songs they are based on and that is perfectly fine with me. I appreciate filmmakers and actors who can make a film that carries its own and doesn’t have to rely on the actors to do all the work.
     The sets are stunning with a gorgeous view of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea. The costumes are colorful and flashy as they fit the characters personalities and there is not much of change from past to present. There were also some interesting ways in which the musical numbers were filmed, especially “One of Us.”
     As I mentioned before, I love the music in this film and I was very happy that the actors have great singing voices whether it’s a solo, duet, or group song. “Waterloo” was a fun number that could not have been done any better. “Why Did It Have to Be Me” was cute and one of my favorites in this film.  “My Love, My Life” left me in tears but luckily “Super Trouper” brings a smile back. I will probably be singing these songs for the next few weeks, but that’s is just fine with me.
     The cast was great. The original cast of Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Waters, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Dominic Cooper, and Meryl Streep were all great in their returning roles no matter how small or how big their screen time was. The newcomers are perfect and talented. Lily James (Baby Driver) rocked it as the confident, spunky, and beautiful Donna. She immediately catches your attention and I am glad that they picked her; Director Parker even stated that he knew she was the one to play young Donna from the start. Jessica Wynn (The Mimic) and Alexa Davies (Harlots) were great as the young Tanya and young Rosie. I enjoyed how they translated their older characters into their younger ones, and along with James, they made a perfect trio. The boys played by Jeremy Irvine (Railway Man; War Horse) as young Sam, Hugh Skinner (Les Miserables) as young Harry, and Josh Dylan (Allied) as young Bill were handsome and fitting for their roles. It was nice to see how they each carried the essence of their older selves into their roles. Skinner gives Harry that sort of awkwardness that is associated with someone having a sexual identity crisis. In the first film, we find out that Harry is gay so you can see how the Young Harry is struggling with coming to terms with that notion. Bill is very much a playboy and Dylan makes that even more obvious as he says he loves Donna but he is not looking for a long-term relationship. His song and dance duet with James is one of my favorite. Irvine is amazing as young Sam. We quickly see that among the three guys, Donna’s relationship with Sam was the deepest and most true relationship by far.  It makes more sense now why Donna was hesitant to let Sam back into her heart in the first film, and it makes me wish that they had stayed together when they were younger. The legendary Cher as Donna’s ever-elusive mother Ruby was a sight to behold. And while her screen time is very short, it was all the more worth it to see her sing “Fernando” with Andy Garcia (who plays Fernando) and then later sing “Super Trouper” with the whole cast.

     Overall, Mamma Mia 2! Here We Go Again (2018) was an absolute joy to see and I cannot wait to see this for a 2nd or even 3rd time. Despite not actually needing a sequel film, this was the sequel we had no idea we wanted. I am glad that Benny and Bjorn, along with the filmmakers refused to make a sequel until everyone was on board as the final product was practically a masterpiece. The sets, visuals, costumes, and cast were all perfect, and the songs will most likely be stuck in my head for weeks to come. But of course, who wouldn’t mind because it’s ABBA. I highly suggest that you watch the first film before this one because, even though you can get by, there are a number of Easter Eggs that you may miss in this film. I highly recommend seeing Mamma Mia 2, especially if you can see it in theaters.

"May the rest of our lives be the best of our lives."
- Young Tanya

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  8.2 of 10 star
Worth Buying:  8.2 of 10 stars

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Annie: A Royal Adventure (1995)
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Footloose (1984)
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High School Musical (2006)
High School Musical 2 (2007)
High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)
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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
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