Mamma Mia sequel deserves encore

By Valerie Miko
Correspondent

Finally, after 10 years of waiting, fans of the hit musical “Mamma Mia” were gifted with a musical just as funny, energetic and heartwarming as the original. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again premiered in theaters on July 20, and made nearly $35 million in the opening weekend alone.

Bill takes Donna on his boat in Kalokairi. (YouTube)

Written and directed by Ol Parker, the highly anticipated sequel takes places five years after the original. Sophie reflects on her mother’s accomplishments while she prepares for the opening of the new hotel, Bella Donna.

The sequel features a few of the same A-list actors from the original musical, including Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. There are also new faces like Lily James, Andy Garcia and Cher that add to the film’s sparkle.

Similar to the original, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a jukebox musical based on the music of the Swedish pop group ABBA. Although it reuses some of the songs from the first movie, the sequel revamps more of ABBA’s hits such as “Angel Eyes,” “When I Kissed the Teacher” and “Why Did It Have to Be Me?”

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a movie packed with hilarious one-liners, well-choreographed dance sequences and flashy costumes. Costume designer Michele Clapton added a modern twist to colorful fashion styles of the ’70s. Many of the ’70s looks young Donna wears — high waisted pants, long flowy skirts, bell bottoms and chunky heeled boots — are trending once again.

What really brought these flashy costumes to life were the various dance sequences. Choreographer Anthony Van Laast did a fantastic job making the musical numbers seem spontaneous, playful and even flirty. For example, the first young hottie of the summer who Donna meets is Harry — the awkward young rock fan vacationing in France before he begins his job at a bank.

Donna and Harry’s flash mob style dance to ABBA’s “Waterloo” takes place in a restaurant while they are out for dinner. What makes their musical number so entertaining is how all the patrons and employees in the restaurant begin dancing with them as the song builds up. Their highly detailed choreography makes great use of scene space, incorporates props, and is energetic and exuberant.

With all these factors, it doesn’t seem too surprising that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” received higher ratings than the original on both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. The sequel’s popularity could have been be due to its focus on Donna in her younger years.

The audience meets Donna’s friends Rosie and Tanya as they graduate college and seek adventure.  We are also introduced to young Sam, Bill and Harry — the three men Donna romances the summer after graduation. The cute, eye-catching faces of actors Lily James, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn and many more might have drawn in a younger crowd curious about what it might have been like to live “back in the day.” The young adults fall in love with a dreamy summer full of all the things they wish they could afford –– a summer spent vacationing instead of working.

Although the sequel gave the audience the backstory, costumes, music and comedy they were hoping for, there are also many unanswered questions remaining by the end of the movie. The most noticeable overlooked detail was how young Sam, Harry and Bill looked vastly different in the sequel than how they did when Donna was remembering them in the original.

Sam is depicted in the original as having long black hair and a handlebar moustache, Harry has spiked black hair and eyeliner while Bill has long blonde hair and distinct tattoos on his knees. These defining features of Donna’s summer romances are removed and edited to make them more chic and appealing to a modern audience.

Additionally, anyone who saw the trailer for the movie knows that Cher makes a cameo appearance, but she doesn’t show up until the last 20 minutes of the movie, and her performance is rather lackluster. Although her voice was strong in “Fernando,” her acting performance was distractingly stiff.

The timeline of events between the first and second movies is confusing. It is revealed in the sequel that Donna graduated college in 1979, which would mean that Sophie was born in 1980. If Sophie is only supposed to be 25 in the sequel, then that would make the movie take place in 2005. Throughout the film, there are several moments when the audience can see technology way too advanced for that era, such as iPhones, tablets and newer car models.  

Much of the continuity errors and flaws of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again were overlooked due to the exciting new cast of younger stars, catchy music, fun costumes and exciting choreography. The summer feel-good blockbuster still continues to bring smiles to theaters as viewers sing and dance their stresses away.