“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” Is an Exuberant Celebration of Community

A decade after spirited island girl Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) quest to find her father tied up neatly in a bow, her story and that of her mother, Donna (Lily James as a young woman, Meryl Streep as an older adult) continues in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” Despite being front and center on the promotional poster, Streep appears in only a few scenes, pushing Seyfried and James to the forefront. Writer/director Ol Parker‘s fun sequel packs in twice the kitsch of its predecessor.

Picking up five or so years after that last film, the present-day story centers around Sophie as she prepares to reopen her mother’s hotel on the Greek Island of Kalokairi one year after Donna’s death. Unfortunately, a storm cloud hangs over what should be a joyous occasion, both literally and figuratively. In addition to uncooperative weather. Sophie also have to deal with a rough patch in her relationship with partner Sky (Dominic Cooper). Fortunately, she has support from her three dads, particularly Sam (Pierce Brosnan), who is her stepfather as well as her potential biological parent. Although late to the party, Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Harry (Colin Firth) also come through, as do Donna’s sassy lifelong gal pals/back-up singers, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters). And if the ensemble needed anymore characters, there’s also Fernando Cienfuegos, the handsome and mysterious hotel manager played by none other than Andy Garcia. Oh, and Cher materializes, and the famous diva must have dug deep to play the role of Sophie’s pop superstar grandmother.

Sophie’s story is interwoven with that of young Donna, who is introduced following her 1979 college graduations, as she is about to embark on a European vacation that will eventually bring her to Greece. Portrayed by the triple-threat James as carefree and charming, Donna finds herself falling into bed with the men who eventually become Sophie’s three dads. First, she takes the virginity of sweet Harry (Hugh Skinner), before getting on a boat with ladies’ man Bill (Josh Dylan). Bill takes off for a three-week race, and while he’s away she falls for Sam (Jeremy Irvine), her true love. After the latter breaks her heart, she is cheered somewhat by a visit from Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (scene-stealer Alexa Davies), who both wisely encourage her to channel her pain into her music.

It should come as no shock that highlights of “Mamma Mia! 2” are dance numbers. With so many ABBA hits having been used in the first film, it’s difficult to fathom that there are any left for this new one, but Parker and his team make use of a few gems, the best number being “Waterloo,” which is performed by Skinner in a particularly exuberant scene set in a Paris cafe. Although certain songs such as “I Had A Dream” and, of course, “Mamma Mia,” are reused, they get new life breathed into them by James.

While one doesn’t necessarily have to shut off one’s brain completely to enjoy “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” it is important not to think too hard on certain aspects, particularly the timeline. If Donna got pregnant in 1979, than that would make Sophie nearly 40, but she’s supposed to be 25, yet she has a 2018 iPhone…

While it make come as no shock that this musical has a positive message, what’s really striking about it is how well it celebrates community. Donna is not shamed once for her choices, and when she finds herself pregnant and alone, strangers in her new home of Greece come to her aide. Similarly, in a less high-stakes situation, Sophie’s family and friends, as well as boatloads of Greek locals, come through to make her hotel opening a success, and all of this love leads up to a showstopper of a final number.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens July 20 nationwide.