“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a wholly ridiculous movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s the kind of movie that feels and sounds like a summer vacation should: fizzy, lively, low-stakes and soundtracked by ABBA.
This is a world where things generally just work out, where folks are kind and willing to help, where everyone has perfect beach hair and where old flings and family members are not only welcome to sail back into lives they’ve abandoned but are greeted with joy and a song. Who has time for bitterness and jealousy in these Greek isles?
The dialogue may be ridiculous, the plot may be questionable, and the musical numbers may be staged and stitched together like a manic fever dream. But “Mamma Mia 2” wears its happy heart so earnestly on its fringed suede sleeve that it almost doesn’t matter.
Because this movie has Cher. And Andy Garcia. And Colin Firth playing Leonardo DiCaprio to Stellan Skarsgard’s Kate Winslet at the bow of a boat packed to the gills with people singing “Dancing Queen.” And minimal singing from Pierce Brosnan. And a final show-stopper that’s so fun, you might be disappointed there isn’t an encore.
But the real reason this bonkers movie works so well is the incandescent Lily James. She plays a younger Donna (who 40 years later is played by Meryl Streep) during a very eventful summer in 1979 where she finds her calling and meets (and sleeps with) the three men who all could be the father of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried).
The flashback portions are told in tandem with what’s happening in the present day, where Sophie is preparing to re-open the hotel after her mother’s death. Seyfried is good, if underserved, and her story picks up considerably when Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) arrive. But it’s the ’79 portion that you want to keep going back to (at least until Cher shows up for the last 10 minutes).
James, who is always strong no matter how big her role (from “Cinderella” to “The Darkest Hour”), gets a real star turn here. She also has a sweetly appealing voice. And with some more talented singers in her male counterparts, young Bill (Josh Dylan), Harry (Hugh Skinner) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine), you’ll look forward to their songs instead of bracing for them. Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies also shine as young Tanya and Rosie.
Screenwriter and director Ol Parker took over directorial duties and slowed the pace considerably from the impossibly energetic “Mamma Mia!” In “Here We Go Again,” which almost sounds like a threat, or at least bemused resignation, there is actually downtime and breathing room, which can drag at times.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this whole sequined bell-bottomed experience is you might even find yourself getting a little emotional. But not too much. This is vacation after all.
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material.