10 years after the world’s most profitable amateur production, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again arrives like a drunken relative at the karaoke, too wasted to remember the lyrics. It’s ‘Here I Go Again,’ auntie.
Set a year on from Donna’s (Meryl Streep) death, Mamma Mia 2 has a Godfather 2-like structure, following the past and the present in tandem; her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she re-opens the hotel, and Donna’s (Lily James) youth when she goes on an ABBA-themed sex tour of Europe.
We see her meet the three fathers (Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan) and buy her iconic dungarees, before holing up on a Greek island surrounded by slaves and pregnant with the girl who’d grow up to read her sex diary and secretly invite all three men to her wedding like a psychopath.
This set-up allows for locations that actually resemble places, a limited amount of choreography and little effort put into weaving the songs into the story. And by doing the bare minimum, it’s drastically more competent than its predecessor, and weirdly this makes it much worse.
Mamma Mia! was that rare kind of film; so bad it’s funny. Even the word “film” feels like an exaggeration; it was a bunch of drunk people flailing about on an island and singing ABBA songs so badly that it had to be seen to be believed.
The sequel is just bad; badly sung, horribly plotted and full of awful characters. However it feels a bit like a real film, so it doesn’t have that hilariously amateurish quality. It’s a paradox; a victim of its own minimal competence. Its mistake was hiring professionals instead of Phyllida Lloyd, who committed Hari-Karioke first time round.
For example, Pierce Brosnan sings less; objectively a good thing, but not for Mamma Mia! On the plus side there are lots of good ABBA songs (only a couple repeated from the first movie), Cher is an actual singer (the only actual singer), and at one point Colin Firth ties himself to a chair and falls in the sea.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is clearly a better-made movie than the original, and a real critic might tell you that this makes it more fun. But as ABBA would say: one of us is lying.