If 2008’s surprise success adaption of the musical stage show Mamma Mia was Swede pop troupe ABBA’s greatest hits, the decade-on sequel – bi-lined Here We Go Again – is the filler track equivalent. Sure there’s a few catchy numbers with decent hooks that evoke a semi sing-along mentality, but overall we just want our “Dancing Queen”’s and our “Mamma Mia”’s (both of which get rehashed here) because “When I Kissed the Teacher” and “Why Did It Have To Be Me” are not the type of tunes we immediately think of when you mention ABBA.
A sequel that no one asked for, and a prequel we don’t need (as the original filled us in enough), Here We Go Again is a hybrid of both following a modern-day Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she prepares for both impending motherhood and the grand re-opening of her mother’s hotel. Without so much as an explanation, we’re informed that Sophie’s dear mother Donna (Meryl Streep) has passed away the year earlier, and in a bid to honour her memory Sophie has renamed the Greek island villa “Bella Donna”; this loving gesture enough of a trigger to set the waterworks of Donna’s longtime gal pal Rosie (Julie Walters) off.
As Sophie deals with all the ups-and-downs of hotel renovation, we flashback throughout to when Donna (Lily James) was finding her own footing in the world and just how she came across her Greek isle living quarters. Given that the original film touched on Donna’s promiscuous ways by being unsure of which handsome European brute knocked her up (Stellan Skarsgard, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth returning as Sophie’s “fathers”) the necessity for writer/director Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) to tread this plot point again feels for nought, further driving home how little a storyline there is to work with; this made even clearer by the loose connections between storyline and the script’s reasoning for throwing in a musical number – someone’s named Fernando? Let’s bust out the name-same track for Cher to perform, because why not?!
On that note, Cher’s appearance as Sophie’s grandmother (yes, we have to somehow buy that Cher is old enough to be Streep’s mother) is one of the many inexplicable, and highly queer, ingredients Here We Go Again has the joy of thrusting upon its unsuspecting viewers. I dare say there’ll be many that will enjoy the jukebox nonsense this sequel produces (the audience attending the preview screening had a ball) but aren’t there some of us that feel a little giddy about Xanadu and Grease 2 as well?
One thing that we can take away from Here We Go Again is that Lily James is an absolute star, and whilst the film overdoes it on the numbers, she is an unstoppable force and devotes herself entirely to a film that doesn’t deserve her.