‘Here I go again!’ I thought, lacking enthusiasm for the prequel/sequel 5 years on. It was the creation of a plot to fit around established hits which put me off. Surely musicals work the other way round? In the intervening years I had forgotten that last time my lack of enthusiasm had been transformed by the ABBA music magic. So when yet again, well known songs were shoe horned into a weak plot, most bizarrely towards the end when Fernando - a song about the Mexican/USA War – became a love song in Greece between the new baby boy’s great- grandmother (Cher) newly arrived in a helicopter, wrinkle free in a grey wig, and the charming hotel manager (Andy Garcia), I swallowed it all quite happily. After all who cares about bizarre opera plots?
This time around Donna (Meryl Streep) is dead with no explanation as to how or why. She has a minor appearance at the end of the film, as a ghost at her grandson’s funeral and then in the grand finale when the middle-aged meet their younger selves. Donna’s is Lily James whose charisma is captivating and manages to explain how Donna had sex with 3 young men in 3 days after graduating from Oxford, the events at the root of the original Mamma Mia plot. With a lack of DNA testing the aging Dads remain enthusiastically sharing parentage and grandparentage.
Donna’s daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who married Sky (Dominic Cooper) in the first film, is now pregnant and trying to fulfil her mother’s dream of opening her hotel on Greek Island , Kalokairi – this time filmed in Croatia on Vis. The sequel/prequel segues neatly between past and present linking themes together and revealing how history repeats itself. The younger versions of the main characters are generally well matched except I noticed Donna’s friend Rosie ( Julie Walters) and her young self, Alexa Davies have brown and blue eyes respectively and Donna’s husband Sam (Pierce Brosnan) in midlife was a whole head taller than his younger self Jeremy Irvine. Since these abnormalities are easily corrected I suppose the Director, Ol Parker felt it didn’t matter.
There very funny cameos of colourful local characters especially the Greek Official (Omid Djalili) scrutinising the hair of new arrivals at Passport Control and the wise woman, restaurant owner Sofia (Maria Vacratsis) mothering the pregnant young Donna and telling home truths to young Sam. Surpise brief encounters with the Abba’s Bjorn (Oxford Professor) and Benny (Piano Player) confirmed their joyful participation in this medley of the bizarre and beautiful.
Everybody audience and actors are having a wonderful time. We all get lost in a cheering, deeply shallow film - not to be missed.
Some 80 people turned out looking for fun and they were richly rewarded. No discussion group this time, but those who stayed on to the end of the credits were rewarded with a very funny scene.
The (long established) rule of not opening the doors before 7pm was strictly enforced for the first time as previous increasingly early arrivals were making setup harder than necessary.
The pre-show entertainment included a recap of what happened in the first Mamma Mia film followed by some behind the scenes clips of the latest version. This was enhanced by Prime Minister Theresa May moving to Dancing Queen, and Not The Nine O'clock News' rendition of Super Trooper.