When “Mamma Mia!” hit theaters in 2008, audiences found enjoyment in watching stars like Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, and Julie Walters dance and sing ABBA’s greatest hits on the silver screen. Now, the cast returns with the addition of some new faces for a sequel that critics can’t help but have fun with, despite what many are describing as a so-so romantic-comedy.
The film currently carries a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.8/10.
Variety’s own Owen Gleiberman praised lead actress Lily James’ performance, noting “she tears into ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ like a tiger, and though it’s a less-than-great ABBA song, the staging is more dynamic than anything in the first ‘Mamma Mia!’ The number has propulsion and flair, which makes you hope that the film will be a sustained lyrical experience — not just a semi-irresistible pastiche but an honest-to-God musical to remember.”
Though Gleiberman describes the story as kitschy, he said writer-director Ol Parker succeeded in weaving ABBA’s music within the narrative. “The movie is barely 10 minutes old, and already you can feel your heart breaking,” he wrote about the duet “One of Us.”
Read on to see what other critics are saying about “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”
“It can be said with certainty that the ABBA musical is a form unto itself — a shamelessly innocent (or maybe just shameless) scrapbook pieced together out of the world’s most sublime ear candy, a story that sprawls in four directions at once (each subplot seems crafted by a different cookie cutter), an overdose of clowning by middle-aged actors who’ve been encouraged to take a fearless pride in what raffish physical specimens they’ve become, all held together by the transcendent classiness of Meryl Streep.
“That first film made me break out in a combination of hives and bubonic plague. And to be honest, this new one does have the original film’s plotless melange of feelgoodery, an exotically amorphous jellyfish of a film which is periodically zapped with the million-volt shock of a zingingly brilliant Abba tune. But something in the sheer relentless silliness and uncompromising ridiculousness of this, combined with a new flavour of self-aware comedy, made me smile in spite of myself.”
“The ‘Mamma Mia’ movies — yes, there are two now, and don’t you forget it — might be the epitome of blue-sky cinema. The first one was based on the hit musical (which was itself based on a rosé fever dream of an ABBA Greatest Hits collection,) but transposing its simultaneously libertine and trippily conservative story line to film form, it didn’t merely feel like a West End import. The postcard-perfect Greek isles location and plethora of respected actors sporting their holiday tans hailed from very specific kind of light viewing bubble. ‘Here We Go Again’ replicates that exact same feeling ten years and one or several economic collapses later, a feeling only revved up by the almost complete absence of Meryl Streep and the addition of Cher. It’s so adamantly blue sky that even its night scenes and a pivotal storm scene are obviously shot day-for-night, but even when the script requires it, no abundance of filters and digital effects can mask the indefatigably great weather.”
“‘Here We Go Again’ is a viewing experience best described as a long nap on the beach while staying at a chain resort. It’s extremely pleasant, if a little lacking in imagination, and every so often, a waiter comes by to refill your drink. Throughout the film, reference is made to Donna’s imperious mother Ruby, a glitzy lounge singer in Vegas. She is played by Cher and shows up with all the appropriate fanfare before her big number; my audience erupted into ecstatic cheers the second she arrived on screen.”
“The first ‘Mamma Mia’ was a present-day feature hamstrung by the events of the past – remember how it was all about untangling the intricacies of young Donna’s love life, all the better to figure out just who the heck is Sophie’s dad? – yet the second film is at its best when actually dramatizing what happened, when, how, and (mostly) with whom. It’s the rare rehash that works.”
“Writer-director Ol Parker’s ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a barely-there excuse for a series of elaborate song-and-dance numbers set to popular ABBA tunes. The past-tense material tells us, in longhand, expositional information that we got in shorthand in the first movie, while the present-tense material offers a barebones narrative including a core conflict that barely gets resolved. But if you came just to see the show, the movie puts on a hell of a show. ‘Here We Go Again’ is a bright, cheerful, colorful, large-scale musical montage of gorgeous people singing and dancing to mostly happy tunes. You might even say that it’s everything you ever want, everything you ever need, right in front of you.”
“And, after about an hour and a half, the movie brings in its real secret weapon: Cher, or a remarkably lifelike simulation. She doesn’t have much to do, but at least she gets to sing a song. Hey, why do you think that nice hotel manager was named Fernando, anyway? But it’s too little, too late, for a movie that’s sometimes sluggish, sometimes manic but never really sure why it’s here. Abba’s greatest hits were already picked clean for the first film 10 years ago (which is why several of them get dragged on for encores now). None of the characters has anything new to show us. Brosnan mutters his way through another song, badly. Firth disco dances. There’s no reason for any of this except for the studio, and the band, to make some more money. Well, sorry, guys. You’ve met your Waterloo.”
“‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,’ a movie that when it was first announced filled me with an element of unease, actually tries to do something new even though its heart is in the same place. It was always going to be hard to recapture and recreate the magic of the first film, but they try to get as close to it as possible and there’s enough here to make it feel comfortably familiar and engagingly fresh at the same time. Also, overall, this feels more like a movie than the first one did which had, and I had no problem with this at all, musical set pieces with other stuff filling the gaps. In ‘Mamma Mia,’ the film was driven by the music; this time it feels more like the narrative is in the drivers seat and the music enhances it.
“Much like its predecessor, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is escapist fluff of the highest order — joyful, filled with beloved pop songs and incredibly bizarre. Go ahead and treat yourself to this raucous seaside summer confection, you deserve it.”
“It’s all that good, playful, drink-sloshing ‘Mamma Mia!’ stuff, just with an added layer of disarming melancholy. Hopefully audiences will take its spirited message to heart. The sun-dappled dance ends for us all eventually, so why not throw our arms up while we can and—unafraid of how silly we’ll look (and we will)—cut a rug with the ones we love?”
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” hits theaters on July 20.