I Finally Watched the Mamma Mia Sequel: Here I Go Again
By: Ruthie LaMay
Mamma Mia is one of those movies that are instant classics. The 2008 film left a lot of people razzle dazzled, but I actually didn’t watch the film until my freshman year of college back in 2016. Honestly, I can’t say I was in love at first watch, but once I took a step back, I really loved the absurdity of it all. Needless to say, the songs were catchy (thanks ABBA) and with a star studded cast featuring names like Meryl Streep and Colin Firth, what was there not to love? Mamma Mia was a movie you would watch when you wanted a loose plot to string together your favorite ABBA bops.
But after that first watch almost 3 years ago, I really didn’t give the movie another thought. Sure, I liked it just as much as the next person, but it wasn’t my go-to movie to rewatch. So, it stayed in the back of my mind. Until early 2018. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and suddenly, I saw this trailer for Mamma Mia. I thought it was weird to be sharing a trailer for Mamma Mia in 2018, but on closer inspection I saw it was actually for a sequel: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. I was definitely excited to see how the sequel would turn out, but it took me until just a few weeks ago to finally see it, and let’s just say I have a lot of thoughts.
A few friends and I watched both the Mamma Mia movies back to back, so I had a clear comparison. Immediately after finishing the movies, my first thought was that the sequel just couldn’t live up to the nostalgia of the original. But after giving myself a second to think, and even until now, a few weeks later, I think I have to say the sequel is better. I do say that hesitantly, for a number of reasons, but I think I’ve come to terms with it. Especially after giving each of these thoughts some time to sit in my head.
Firstly, Here We Go Again does have Cher in it. And I’ll be the first to admit that as soon as she started singing “Fernando” I started crying. Real tears. I don’t know what about it made me cry; I think it was due to the fact that adding Cher into an already ridiculous movie was just too much for me to take. And besides Cher, Lily James was a fantastic addition, along with the rest of the young character counterparts. Special shout-out to Jessica Keenan Wynn as a spot on Christine Baranski look alike.
My only complaint with the cast was the absence of Streep, which I felt was very noticeable in the present day scenes. James more than delivered as the young version of Donna, but there was still something missing without Streep. I’ve heard many different reasons why Donna had to die for Here We Go Again. Some saying Streep was just too busy to return, or that she wanted the younger generation to take the spotlight, or she refused because she never plays the same role twice. Vulture reported that the original movie’s screenwriter and director “knew Donna had to die” for the sequel to work. To be honest, I don’t find any of them all that convincing, however, Donna’s return as a ghost for “My Love, My Life” was incredibly heartfelt in a way the first movie didn’t even come near. So maybe that missing piece was intentional after all.
The sequel overall is much more in touch with its emotional side, but at the same time it manages to never take itself too seriously. I think this is what earns it higher marks in my mind. Here We Go Again takes the bizarre plot it has and really owns it in a way the first movie didn’t. From Bill’s twin brother swapping places with him so the real Bill can join Sophie in Greece, to Alexio’s 5 minute side plot that ends with his bride running and jumping off a pier into the water, to the larger-than-life “Dancing Queen” party boats, the sequel capitalizes on campy humor whenever it can. This, contrasted with the more emotional moments makes the whole experience of watching the movie much more dynamic than the one-note feeling of the original. And, of course, there are moments where campy humor and nostalgia combine, like in the finale, “Super Trouper,” where worlds collide, and present day characters and their young counterparts sing together.
By playing off the nostalgia of the original Mamma Mia’s tenth anniversary, Here We Go Again brings back old favorites and introduces fresh talent seamlessly, but is it the best sequel/prequel ever to exist? No, probably not. However, it did manage to build on the framework set by the original movie while still holding up on its own. By going to the past to explore a young Donna’s world, the sequel was able to expand while still giving the audience more of what they loved about the first movie. What the movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in enthusiasm ten times over.
In conclusion, I find it hard to find one. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is undeniably charming and recalls memories of the original, while still building on top of it. While the complexity introduced to the sequel does make it an objectively “better” movie, the sheer stupid simplicity of the original still speaks to me. So, what I can leave it at is: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a well-done sequel, for a sequel that we really never needed, but got anyway. As for which movie I would say I like better, that’s still a toss up. The double edged sword of not seeing the original’s premiere is that I don’t have the same nostalgic value that would make the sequel amazing or completely ruin the movie for me forever.
What did you think of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Let us know what you think in the comments.