Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Is Garbage, But You Already Knew That So Enjoy It Anyway
Here we go again indeed.
The sequel to the 2008 blockbuster Mamma Mia! is here, and it's unremarkable, but you most likely already knew that.
For 114 minutes, you can escape this suffocating, depressing world we live in. You can forget about treasonous presidents, whales full of plastic bags and whatever other literal nightmares we wake up to every day.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the purest form of escapism that contorts its face into a relentless smile and encourages you to forget your worries and fall into a turquoise fantasia which -- again, we can't overstate this -- is pure trash.
Even the film's title feels like an admission of what's to come. Here We Go Again it sighs, bulk-buying another 30 bold-print kaftans, before hanging eight woven baskets from a hat rack, before someone in the cast suggests another "funny thing" an extra could do to "bulk out their back story".
Here We Go Again.
It feels like the film is completely self-aware, casually mentioning early that... you're not going to see a lot of Meryl in this one.
Yep, despite being in the centre of the poster, and despite ridiculously photoshopped publicity shots littered around the set, there's barely an IRL Meryl to be seen.
Allow us to explain and be warned, there are spoilers to follow.
Here We Go Again is set five years after the original film, a year after the UNTIMELY DEATH OF MERYL STREEP'S DONNA. Her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has been renovating and setting up their villa to run as a hotel for millionaires. In the days before the grand opening of the "Hotel Bella Donna", she's forced to grapple with her mother's past, and her own future.
The film is split between telling Donna's origin story -- how she came to live on the idyllic island paradise of Kalokairi, how she met her three suitors Sam, Harry and Bill -- and the story of Sophie's attempts to get the hotel ready for launch.
Young Donna is played by Lily James, who is actually an unexpected joy to watch as she traverses a script that aims to rehash information already laid out in the first film. There's also an obvious amount of ABBA songs throughout, and James lends an energy to the performances that would otherwise have made the film as lifeless as present-day Donna.
Where the first film relied on Sophie sending out wedding invitations to the three men she believed could be her father (the aforementioned Sam, Harry and Bill), the sequel has no real stakes. There's no inevitable arrival or anything of note, nor are we really invested in the idea of an island retreat for millionaires. Relatable!
Seyfried has once again sent out invitations, this time for the opening of her hotel, but there's no real sense that this holds any weight. She's also a terrible hotelier, considering six minutes of rain is enough to trash her entire welcome plans. No contingency plan? For a hotel for millionaires?
Dominic Cooper also informs her at one stage that a "blogger" is interested in writing about the hotel, as if that means anything.
(We're under the impression Pierce Brosnan took singing lessons for the sequel so that Dominic Cooper could finally be remembered for his role as Sky, the worst singer on the island.)
Returning favourites Tanya and Rosie, played by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, offer some much needed comic relief in the present-day storyline, which is unfortunately so drab that even the joy of Baranski declaring, "Be still my beating vagina" is quickly lost as Seyfried laments in a sea of too many appetisers.
Young Tanya and Rosie, played by Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies respectively, do the same for the flashbacks.
The film turns a corner so sharp at the top of its third act that it's like the movie butt-chugged a Red Bull, injecting the frenetic colour and energy so desperately missing from the story line.
From there, it's just minutes to the inevitable moment we've all been waiting for -- the arrival of Cher.
The 72-year-old icon plays Sophie's grandmother, and her entrance marks what Here We Go Again is all about: pure, ridiculous, camp brilliance that would prompt even the Hallmark channel to ask, "Is this too much?".
While the other characters may be attempting to convince us of their paper-thin character development, Cher is there to remind you that she can wrap tinsel around a bolero sweater and make it an iconic fashion moment.
Cher's arrival is like a confetti cannon straight to the face. Even though it was announced weeks ago, as soon as she says "Fernando?" out loud, it's impossible to not be overwhelmed by deeply homosexual chills.
It almost makes up for Meryl's all-but-cameo appearance near the end of the film, which is obviously the icing on the Cher cake.
We could go into more detail about the sexual politics of the film, or how Tanya and Rosie never change their hair OR their hats. We could, but what's the point?
The film is at its best when it embraces exactly what it's all about, a sheer distraction from our awful, awful lives. The attempt to cattle-prod some joy out of our cold, black hearts. It's escapism at its best and worst -- because it involves group choreography.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is like a turquoise dumpster fire, but it's a dumpster fire peppered with ABBA songs, hair-flipping, flared jean stomping, bad blue-screens, shonky dialogue and, oh yeah, did we f**king mention... Cher?
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again opens in cinemas July 19.
Featured image: Universal Pictures.