Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Lily James, Dominic Cooper
Director: Ol Parker
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: As the film goes back and forth in time to show how relationships forged in the past resonate in the present, James will play the role of Young Donna. Filling the roles of Young Rosie and Young Tanya are Alexa Davies (A Brilliant Young Mind) and Jessica Keenan Wynn (Broadway’s Beautiful). Young Sam will be played by Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), while Young Bill is Josh Dylan (Allied) and Young Harry is Hugh Skinner (Kill Your Friends).
Of all of the, “turn your brain off,” movies to come out in July, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is far and away the dumbest of them all. This film thrives in its nonsensical premise and decides to go all in with the elements that make it ridiculous. The fact that this was a step up from the previous is a testament to how poorly made the first one was. While the film is shot and choreographed in tier well above your average film, the storyline is nonexistent and the songs get incredibly annoying very quickly.
The film follows Sophie (Seyfried) as she attempts to fulfill her mother Donna’s (Streep) of turning an old Greek farm into an exotic hotel. While this is going on, flashback sequences of Donna after she graduated college (James) show us how she traveled around Europe and met all three of Sophie’s fathers. As you can see, there are essentially two movies occurring at the exact same time, and boy you can feel it with the pacing. This film is 114 minutes, but with the constant cutting between time it felt like I had lost years off my life. This film is supposed to be a light, enjoyable experience and that experience gets lost when you are begging for things to move on. One of the other drawbacks from the cutting between time is that there is never a real plot that happens in the present. The scenes in the past are just Donna running around Europe, but nothing in the present seems to matter at all. Sophie and her husband Sky (Cooper) have a fight over where they should live moving forward, and the fight goes absolutely nowhere. I guess the plot is about getting the hotel ready for a party, but is that enough to keep an entire film afloat? I was much more interested in what happened in the past, and as cheesy and unoriginal as the story was, at least it was a story. Now, the most important part of a musical is obviously the music. There are certain songs, like, “Waterloo,” that are top-tier from start to finish, but most of these songs either drag on too long or exist for the sake of existing. Some of my favorite movies, including Singin’ in the Rain and various Disney animated musicals from the 1990s, have a good balance between plot and music and use the songs to not only entertain, but to show us more of the story as well. In this film, there are multiple instances of a song being played followed by maybe a minute of dialogue, and then right into another song. Pacing is key to any movie, and it is clear that Parker had a difficult time with that. One of the things that stands out in a positive way is that the cinematography and choreography are absolutely incredible. The director of photography, Robert Yeoman, is a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson and oftentimes throughout the film it feels like we are watching a Wes Anderson film. The shots have an incredible color palate and are shown from angles that almost always give us the best shot available. There is one shot that has an obscene amount of lens flare in it, but other than the presentation of the movie is well above the rest of the movies that have come out in July. Regarding the choreography, I was surprised with how natural many of the movements in the film felt. None of these performers are Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, but overall the movements are pretty fluid and while they can be extremely exaggerated, the film is supposed to be goofy and nonsensical, and the musical numbers back this point up at almost every opportunity.
Overall, I understand who this film is made for, and while I am not part of that target audience, the people who enjoyed the first film will certainly enjoy this one as well. This is a perfect film if you want to turn your brain off for a few hours and not take anything very seriously. While the movie can be incredibly annoying at times and the lack of plot can be infuriating for people like me who rank the story elements as part of the most important elements of a movie, those who can overlook the story and focus on the things that make this film fun should have a splendid time with this film.
Overall Score: 5/10