Thanks for Cher-ing

Mamma Mia! sequel makes ABBA great again

The credits rolled by, and I looked around me. I was the lone male in the Springfield movie theater. But that’s okay, because this is a woman’s world.

Maybe that’s why the person next to me kept looking at me throughout the movie. Perhaps she pitied me for being dragged there by my girlfriend. But my girlfriend actually introduced me to the wonders of the first Mamma Mia! Since then, I was excited to revisit the hits of ABBA, especially with the promise of Cher.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again takes place five years after Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) found out who her real father was (it’s all three of them) in the first film, without relying on Maury Povich. We soon discover that her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), had died a year ago, and Sophie is trying to pull off a grand reopening of her mother’s hotel.

But things just aren’t going well. She’s having relationship troubles. And two of her dads, Harry and Bill (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, respectively), can’t show up for the reopening. That leaves Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Andy García (Señor Cienfuegos), and later Donna’s former band mates, to “bolster” Sophie.

The film also explores the age-old question of “If I Could Turn Back Time.” As Sophie tries to pull off a hotel reopening, we learn how young Donna (Lily James) made it to the Greek island. 

At first, the movie feels worrisome. The opening song “When I Kissed the Teacher” made it sound like they were going to rely on obscure, deep cuts. Plus, with the early sign that there would be a lack of Meryl Streep and Sophie’s two other dads, it felt like a movie that should’ve been straight-to-DVD.

My early criticisms were banished when young Harry wooed young Donna by singing “Waterloo” in France. For those of us who never experienced peak ABBA years, the movie is a lesson in how many hits — even if it’s obscure today — the band churned out.

If the sequel has fault, it’s that it feels dislocated, the narrative jumping between how young Donna made it to the island and Sophie’s quest to take advantage of the tourist industry in Greece. Despite the void of no Meryl Streep, James proves entertaining with her broken-hearted ballad arrangement of “Mamma Mia” or belting out “Kisses of Fire.” 

In fact, the movie does benefit from Streep’s absence by lending a chance to amplify the humor in supporting actors and actresses. Brosnan maintains the charm that made him one of the most badass incarnations of James Bond, and, bless his heart, he doesn’t lead another song this time. Of course, Donna’s band mates — young and old — deliver lines that aren’t original but flourish thanks to the right talent. 

Do you believe in life after love? Because Sophie’s ever-elusive grandmother (Cher) does. She absolutely steals the show with a surprising performance of “Fernando.” If tears don’t fall down your cheeks while thanking Cher for the music, you have a heart of stone.

The only downside of Cher is that she comes in about 90 minutes too late (maybe it’s time to have a Cher version of Mamma Mia!). 

The sequel doesn’t have all of the charm — or ABBA hits — of Mamma Mia!, but it’s a solid musical that keeps you entertained and tapping your feet. Sure, it could be seen as a money-grabber, but the world needs another ABBA movie rather than another Marvel movie. 

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