“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018)

Musical

3-stars

Running Time: 114 minutes

Written & directed by: Ol Parker

Featuring:  Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Andy García, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Cher, and Meryl Streep

Tanya“Be still my beating vagina.”

Critical Commentary:

This week sees the release of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018) the sequel to the 2008 “Mamma Mia!” which at the time was a massive global hit that consisted of a large ensemble cast, written and directed by women based on the stage musical of the same name. Now ten years later while not being the hit the original was it has garnered some very positive critical acclaim with an even larger cast coupled with it also being a prequel as well as a sequel of sorts, which is an interesting narrative gamble as well as possibly confusing for audiences. Now written and directed by Ol Parker who has a track record in these kinds of comedy/dramas brings something a little different, that is a narrative complexity that is present mainly because it is trying to be original and a step on from the previous movie which works well enough, although the flashback scenes are a little overdone seemingly covering up the absence that a star like Meryl Streep creates. Which leads to the largest difference in this sequel the almost complete absence of Meryl Streep which is underplayed in marketing materials but is obvious from the outset, she does make an appearance at the end of the movie which is welcome but feels more like lip service than a real role. However by the time the end credits roll the feeling is that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a completely worthy follow up as well as an antidote for the cultural, economic and most importantly political malaise that we find ourselves in, this is as advertised a true feel good movie with sun, smiles, music, laughter and love, I defy you not to have a smile as you watch this, especially with other people in the same room.

Written and directed by Ol Parker who is best known for writing “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011) and its sequel “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015) here he takes similar narratives but adds music as well as a far larger cast, which to be fair is a massive undertaking when dealing with some of the biggest movie stars of the past four decades. Parker wisely recognises that audiences are coming for a few key elements, a story that reinforces the original, some dancing and songs from ABBA’s catalogue that viewers know off by heart and can either tap their feet or even sing along, which some screenings offer, to me that sounds like real fun. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” does rely on a large element of brand recognition as well as nostalgia, for the past, yes, but more importantly for the feeling that the previous movie brought out in people which of course this one succeeds at accomplishing, again Parker as a smart writer knows this as well. The larger question is how the narrative holds together switching between time periods at what can be a frenetic pace with the use of parallel cutting so as to highlight moments of plot, music or even geography which do work well, but there is so much happening I did feel it was a little overlong, which it isn’t but to me feels that way, I have no doubt though that for some it will not be long enough.

The movie begins with Sophie Sheridan who is preparing for the grand reopening of her mother Donna’s hotel, following Donna’s death a year earlier. She is upset because two of her fathers, Harry and Bill, are unable to make it to the reopening and she is having trouble in her relationship with Sky. The story then switches 1979; a young Donna graduated from Oxford’s New College with Rosie and Tanya, and prepares to travel the world. From here we visit both time periods with music playing a big part in the narrative, we are introduced to new characters as well as plot points from the previous movie being expanded on as well as of course the obligatory big final number that seems to take up the final act of the movie.

In terms of performance this is a huge cast with many A-list actors involved, the previous movies cast are all returning along with a few more, including Cher, as well as Andy Garcia who are both wonderful, Garcia in particular is always great to see on the big screen and is having something of a resurgence thanks to supporting roles in a great many projects big and small in a variety of genres. There have been some younger actors cast to play versions of other older actors, for me the stand out is Hugh Skinner who makes an immediate impact as a young Harry who threatens to steal the movie away from whoever he shares scenes with, this for me was the highlight of the cast as well as the movie, he has expert comic timing as well as expert special awareness for what is occurring around him. Of course the singing as well as dancing ability is of most importance and as you expect from the previous movie it is the women who are the standouts, with Lily James the newest main cast member doing an outstanding job and proving why her three previous roles have been unmitigated success, Collins is proving to be the real deal in terms of young actresses.

The strength of this movie is its happiness factor which may sound flippant but after a long two years of seemingly brutality in the media, much cynicism as well as the erosion of peoples rights it is a breath of fresh air to see a movie that is all about singing, dancing, family and friends who all get along and actually want to be together, there are no real dark pasts or indecision just people living lives on a Greek Island with really little care or seriousness. Of course it is a very white middle class movie that offers nothing of real culture or substance, there are little people of other cultures, in fact culture has been appropriated, if this does not bother you then this will be a fun time to be had as well as repeatedly viewed I am sure along with the original movie.

When I watched this movie I was not expecting much but I had a good time watching it, while its not the most original or significant of the year or decade it does offer something that will reveal itself when watched and I have to say the more people watching at the same time the better.

Technical Commentary:

The 4K UHD release of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” comes packaged in your standard two-disc 4K UHD amaray case.  Within that case is the standard 4K copy of the movie as well as the standard Blu-ray copy.   There is also a digital copy redemption pamphlet that’s been included as well as a slipcover that’s been made available during the original pressing that features the same artwork that’s included on the case.

Video:

Despite being an upscaled 4K release, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” ultimately shines best with its utilization of Dolby Vision.  Giving its viewers a bright and vivid color presentation that really offers a detailed look into the scenic views.  While the majority of the movie really didn’t have much that stood out over other parts, I will certainly say that the scenery in which the story takes place really stood out the best with me personally, and really helped with the fun to be had with the various dance numbers.

Audio:

Bundled with a Dolby Atmos audio track, the 4K UHD release of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” really does a decent job at offering an all out immersive audio experience. The musical numbers really sounded great through my home theater system, almost as if I were sitting there at a live show.  The dialogue is spoken cleanly, ensuring that the characters could be heard without having to adjust the volume levels as it progressed.

Special Features:

  • Enhanced Sing-A-Longs
  • Deleted & Extended Songs & Scenes
  • Mamma Mia! Reunited
  • Playing Donna
  • Costumes And The Dynamos
  • Curtain Call
  • The Story
  • Today Interview With Cher & Judy Craymer

 

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