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Go with it and you’ll dance in the aisles

Fans ‘get’ the ‘joyously contrived plot’ and ‘feel’ the emotional punch of sequel- prequel Mama Mia! Here We Go Again ...

Charlie Masters

Charlie Masters

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Go with it and you’ll dance in the aisles

SO, yes, the Mamma Mia! sequel is finally here and it appears to have critics dancing in the aisles – no small feat, one might say, given that the first film was a purely commercial success, arousing the collective ire of professional commentators like few films can just as it had casual audiences compliantly tapping their toes to a string of Abba hits.

Still, Here We Go Again (that title …) is no natural fit for these dangerous times. The first movie was a proudly retrograde picture, possessed of an uber-camp gusto that felt toe-curlingly outdated even in 2008. For the sequel to abandon that vibe would be to forsake its Mamma Mia! credentials wholesale – the definition of a Catch-22.

Still, MAYBE – just maybe – there was a niche this project could fill? After all, hip-ironic fandom is all the rage nowadays, with children’s cartoons finding a cult following in the recesses of the internet and Eurovision viewing parties drawing in millions of otherwise well-adjusted yoof.

Mamma Mia! was less La La Land than it was The Greatest Showman, complete with unbelievably pristine Greek locales and a singing Pierce Brosnan, but the tunes are, indeed, truly timeless, and it’s on the strength of those that any sequel was going to succeed.

Well, let’s just get this out in the open: I’m not a fan of either film and, try as I might to like Here We Go Again, I don’t feel it to merit much of the praise it’s been getting.

The movie is, ultimately, low on plot and high on UV-and-wine-induced merry, yet, from the outset, its set-up teases of quite a bit more dramatic weight than it actually delivers.

One of the more genuinely amusing sequences of the first film saw Donna (Meryl Streep) imagine the three potential fathers of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), as their (much) younger selves – so Colin Firth became a hair-rocker, Pierce Brosnan became a hippie and Stellan Skarsgård became a dashing Scandinavian troubadour. In the face of Sophie’s marital woes, the sequel takes us back to 1979, where a youthful Donna (played by Lily James) first encounters the men. Understandably, their boyish personas are quite apart from the rebel archetypes alluded to in Part Un; nevertheless, there’s little of the first film’s saccharine vigour – when all is said and done, we already know the outcome of this story. Even some half-baked baby drama largely fails to stir the pot.

The thrills and spectacles of Here We Go Again tread a fine line between likable farce and musical by committee, all too often falling on the latter side (a character played by Cher – actually one of the more affable contributors this time round – shows up in a helicopter). The soundtrack takes a decent stab at balancing hits from the first film with some lesser-known Abba fare (Andante, Andante, When I Kissed the Teacher ), but it lacks in choreographed material that’s memorable for any of the RIGHT reasons. That, where a musical is concerned, is unforgivable. The movie functions best as a meditation on how far we’ve come since the original’s release, with Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper now minor superstars, Meryl Streep and Colin Firth mostly keeping their careers on the down low, and Pierce Brosnan struggling to resuscitate a celebrity that was already foundering circa 2008.

Mamma mia indeed!

Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (PG)

Running time 1hr 54min

Rating: **

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