Ten years ago, the film adaptation of the musical Mamma Mia was released. This year, an original sequel followed.
For anybody not familiar with the story of the first Mamma Mia or the musical by the same name, the story is pretty simple. Sophie is planning her wedding to her fiance Sky at her mother Donna’s hotel in Greece. She wants her father, who she has never met, to walk her down the aisle. It turns out that three men could possibly be her father, and Donna doesn’t know which one. Not only that, but they don’t know each other and they don’t know that they (possibly) have a daughter. Sophie’s efforts to find out who her father is while keeping up the surprise for Donna plays out, sprinkled with ABBA songs.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really a fan of the first Mamma Mia. I thought that the story was weak, and as a casual listener of ABBA, the music didn’t make up for it. However, I think that the sequel improves on the concept of the first movie. It’s not without its flaws, but I enjoyed Mamma Mia 2 much more than the first.
My biggest criticism of Mamma Mia 2 was obvious from the first few scenes. In the sequel, Sophie is preparing for the grand re-opening of the Hotel Bella Donna, her new name for the greek farmhouse hotel after her mother’s passing. So despite Meryl Streep’s credit on the poster and her picture in the ensemble, she doesn’t appear for most of the movie. I found her offscreen death to be unnecessary and detrimental to the plot.
The film serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the original Mamma Mia. While Sophie prepares for the grand opening of her own hotel, we flash back to Donna’s experiences with the three fathers and how she came to live in Greece. If Donna was still alive, it would have been a better way to frame the story. I assumed that Meryl Streep wasn’t going to be in the movie at all, maybe she decided not to reprise her role, requiring her character to be written out of the movie. It certainly wasn’t a last-minute change, since Donna is such a central character in Mamma Mia.
Despite that peeve, I thought that the casting for the younger versions of the characters was pretty good. However, I think that the casting director prioritized singing talent a little bit over the precise resemblance to the older actors. However, I think that would have been the right decision. For the most part, it sounded like the actors had improved their singing voices since the first film. Also, there were more creative liberties taken with the arrangements of the songs. They still had to be recognizable as ABBA songs, but the backing tracks sounded less like karaoke tracks.
Mamma Mia 2 didn’t have source material to interpret. That being said, I think that worked to the film’s benefit. The whole thing felt more creative, especially since they were no longer bound to the single location of the first movie. There is a duet between the present-day Sophie and the flashback Donna that I think was incredibly shot.
I think that Mamma Mia 2 surpasses the first film in quality and it is a better movie on its own merits. It’s a fun summer flick to watch with friends and family. If you’re an ABBA fan, I would recommend you head to the theater right away. If not, it’s still worth your time.