My friend Scooter and I caught a matinee of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again yesterday. In the preceding couple of days, it was already apparent that the sequel was poised to establish itself as a formidable follow-up to the immensely popular original. Released almost ten years to the date of its predecessor, this second iteration has a distinction that the first installment failed to garner: critical praise. Yes, with a Rotten Tomatoes score at 78%, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, while not a consensus gem, is somewhat surprisingly appeasing critics with its more polished execution.
Both Scooter and I agreed that the first quarter of the film dragged a bit. It opens with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) busily preparing for the reopening of her mother's hotel. We learn early that Meryl's character Donna has indeed passed, thus striking the emotional drive for both the present-day events and flashback sequences. Considering Meryl was barely in the movie until a single scene at the end (with a touching performance of My Love, My Life), my favorite scenes were with Lily James, who plays the young Donna. She is an absolute joy to watch onscreen. Beautiful, energetic, glowing, with a light, yet lovely voice. We're given a glimpse into how she met Sophie's "three fathers." And while it was particularly silly to believe she would run into a devilishly handsome contemporary every fifty paces, it was nonetheless enjoyable to follow as their relationships unfold. I admit I developed a little crush on Josh Dylan, who plays young Bill (Stellan Skarsgård).
Comic relief was adeptly provided by both Julie Walters (Rosie) and especially Christine Baranski (Tanya), with such irreverant quips from Tanya as "be still my beating vagina." Alexa Davies (young Rosie) and Jessica Keenan-Wyn were delightful as their twenty-something counterparts.
And then of course there's queen Cher. Portraying Ruby, Donna's mother and Sophie's grandmother, she flies in on a helicopter to crash the hotel's opening extravaganza. I told some friends that she's very Cher-y in her fun performance of Fernando with Andy Garcia, who portrays the hotel manager, Fernando, extraordinarily a former lover of Ruby's. Overall, pretty much only Meryl and Cher sounded like professional singers, but that's sort of the tone of the film, I guess, and it didn't really bother me.
Numbers are still trickling in from the box office, but the opening weekend is likely to land around $34 million, slightly under the projected total of $40m. Worldwide, it's already hit a total of over $76 million, opening in multiple large international markets simultaneously with its U.S. release.
As I had mentioned in a previous post, part of the appeal of this film is likely the simple fact that it's fun. While there are some sentimental or even sad scenes, those moments lend the film a more touching human element, despite its often predictable, corny dialogue. I have only seen the first film once (opening weekend 2008), and frankly have had little interest in a second viewing. For part two, however, I just might have to get myself to the theater for another dose.