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Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

How do you solve a problem like Dead Meryl?

The Queen is dead. In the ten years since Mamma Mia was released, Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep), has sung her final note. It’s not a spoiler, it’s just a simple fact. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again begins, and Meryl is dead. No one mentions how she died, but her death is invoked incessantly. The most popular of Streep’s promo photos for the first film hangs like a shrine on Sam’s (Piece Brosnan) mantle. He stares at it while whispering an acapella rendition of “SOS”. Do not speak her name in front of the once staunch Rosie (Julie Walters), for she will break down in tears. Donna is dead, and we’ll never forget it. Her death is mentioned every five minutes, making her absence that much more palpable. So, just how do you solve a problem like Dead Meryl?

Though Donna may have made the great departure, her daughter Sophie will not let her mother’s memory fade. While her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) travels for business, Sophie remains home on the island of Kalokairi as she attempts to revitalize her mother’s dilapidating hotel. With the help of Sam – who is one of Sophie’s three dads and married Donna at the end of the first film – Sophie has refurbished the property and is in preparation for a grand reopening. Among the invitees are Sophie’s other two dads, Bill and Harry (Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth) as well as Donna’s former bandmates/best friends Rosie and Tanya (Walters and Christine Baranski). Surrounded by the people who loved her mother most, Sophie hopes that the experience will bring her closer to her departed mother. Though our beloved Meryl Donna may have died, a younger incarnation played by Lily James leads audiences through Donna’s past and her closely dated romances with a young Sam (Jeremy Irvine), young Bill (Josh Dylan), and a young Harry (Hugh Skinner).

Donna is dead, yet she lives. The absence of Streep is deeply felt, yet Lily James is so damn perfect that she almost makes you forget. The once sung about tales of Donna’s youth are brilliantly represented by James. Most importantly, she can sing – though this is not necessarily a casting requirement for the series. As James brings old favourites and second-tier ABBA songs to life with energy and grace, Pierce Brosnan continues to butcher some of our favourite hits. Mamma Mia fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Here We Go Again is a film highly aware of what fans loved about the first one. Any inkling of seriousness found within Bill, Harry, and Sam has vanished. Instead, the three veteran actors who inhabit these men revel in their lack of rhythm. When the entire group dances and sings “Dancing Queen” – it’s pretty much the same scene from the first film – a sort of indescribable joy overtakes. There’s something magical about being alive in a world where Here We Go Again exists. The entire thing is extremely sex positive, celebrating young Donna’s whirlwind of a week that sees her embracing spontaneity while sleeping with three wildly different men. Similarly, Christine Baranski once again revels in the joys of Tanya’s unquenchable sex drive.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is unlike any other film. It is fun, loud, broad, silly, and shockingly life-affirming. Some of the plot doesn’t stick, but in all honesty…fuck plot. Here We Go Again will make you feel alive. Meryl’s dead, but you don’t have to be. Sure you may not know all the words to “Angel Eyes”, “Departure”, or “When I Kissed the Teacher”, but who cares. They’ll sing “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen”, and “Waterloo” again just for you. If we all took two hours out of our lives to celebrate the lesser-loved songs of ABBA and mourn the death of Donna Sheridan, the world would be a much better place. Go again and again and again.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.