More kitsch and classic pop

Principal cast of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, in cinemas from July 20.

Screen: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – Durban’s Suncoast Cinecentre and other cinemas countrywide from July 20

THE inevitable sequel arrives 10 whole years (would you believe?) after the first film, which was based on the hugely successful stage musical built on Abba songs. However, the action in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again picks up only five years after the last film’s finale.

When we left the Greek isles and the frothy cocktail of kitsch and eternal sunshine that was Mamma Mia!, hippie Donna (an exuberant Meryl Streep) had wed Sam (a dull Pierce Brosnan), one of three men with whom she had had a fling in her youth and who could have been the father of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried).

All three actors return for the sequel, albeit that Streep has very little screen time this time around, her poignant performance of My Love, My Life providing one of the film’s highlights.

The thin storyline now is that young Sophie is down in the dumps in her mum’s Greek villa, which has been newly converted into a hotel and is ready to be launched.

Sophie is sad because her estranged husband, Sky (a lacklustre Dominic Cooper), is in New York and considering a job offer there while she plans a press junket at the hotel and worries about an approaching storm.

So the now-pregnant Sophie pines and whines, but thank heaven for everyone her mum’s old best friends, played by the knockout team of Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, return for the hotel launch festivities, along with Donna’s old flames, played again by Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard.

Lily James as the young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Sophie also gets an unexpected guest in the arrival of her grandmother, Ruby, a Vegas singing star played by a platinum-blonde Cher, looking amazing at 72 and delighting with her delivery of Fernando and, in a closing number featuring all the cast, Super Trouper. Her presence (albeit too brief) and diva quality is just what the sequel needed!

The beauty of the new movie is that while this plot line unfolds, writer-director Ol Parker runs a parallel story of Sophie’s mother’s past, before and when she first arrived on the island. The flashback sequences – starring a vibrant and sweet-voiced Lily James as the young Donna – are devised to cleverly, deftly morph between past and present.

The film’s first half, it has to be said, is a little laboured and sometimes the movie’s zest, its urgent sense of come-sing-along-with-us, is a little forced, most notably in a rendition of Waterloo that features a member of Abba as an extra.

I also found all three of the actors playing the younger versions of the men in Donna’s life in poor voice, at best sounding like adequate karaoke. They are Hugh Skinner, a blond Josh Dylan and dark-haired Jeremy Irvine.

Another gripe – and this comes from an Abba fan – is that there seem to be too many songs this time around, although it’s rather nice to hear lesser hits (When I Kissed the Teacher, Kisses of Fire, Andante, Andante, Why Did It Have to Be Me? and I’ve Been Waiting For You, among them) worked into the storyline.

Oh, and be warned that, in spite all the negative reviews for his singing in the first movie, Pierce Brosnan gets to sing SOS yet again! I kid you not!

Among other songs featured are Thank You For the Music, I Wonder, One of Us, The Name of the Game, I Have a Dream, Mamma Mia, Angel Eyes, Knowing Me, Knowing You and a fun reprise of Dancing Queen (this time performed by a large group on boats).

All considered  there’s enough kitsch, sugar, sparkle and classic pop to keep one interested. And a line by Christine Baranski, reacting to wooing from a hunky older guy played by Andy Garcia, is alone worth one’s ticket price. Rating: 6/10.

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