'Mamma Mia' sequel makes it well worth going again

At a moment where gloom feels pervasive in many quarters, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" rides a tide of joy, fun and ...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 1:41 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 1:41 PM

At a moment where gloom feels pervasive in many quarters, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" rides a tide of joy, fun and mother-daughter bonding, again set to a jaunty array of ABBA tunes. This decade-later sequel also features a pair of natural assets -- the dazzling beauty of its island setting, and the utterly winning presence of Lily James, who occupies what amounts to the central role as the younger version of Meryl Streep's character.

Slow to start, the movie feels a trifle clunky in the early going, and indulges in a bit of a gimmick toward the end, building toward a much-ballyhooed appearance by Cher, which feels like one of those token cameos by a big studio contract player back in the heyday of big musicals.

In between, though, "Mamma Mia!" hits plenty of the right notes, in large part by focusing the narrative on flashing back to 1979, when the young Donna first came to her Greek paradise (actually shot in Croatia), engaging in a trio of trysts with the men who would eventually end up being identified as the potential fathers of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried).

Sophie is preparing to relaunch the family hotel, while having hit a rough patch with her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper). That narrative, fortunately, oscillates with her mom's story, which provides the opportunity to cast younger versions of all the key characters, and not incidentally, turn the singing chores over to people who are (with apologies to Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth, game as they are) a bit better suited to that particular task.

No one fares better than James, the "Downton Abbey" co-star who subsequently played "Cinderella." The slipper fits here, too, as James captures Donna's free spirit and vulnerability while belting out an assortment of songs, delivering an enormously appealing performance that helps carry the film past some of the rougher shoals that the story nears.

James provides a gust of fresh air in part because writer-director Ol Parker seeks to outdo the original (which featured a stronger roster of ABBA songs) both through the addition of new characters (including Cher, as well as Andy Garcia as the hotel's dreamy manager) and by simply throwing dozens of dancers at the musical numbers, which risks becoming wearisome.

Fortunately, the deeper aspect of the story -- how Donna found true love on that island, even if it wasn't immediately obvious to her -- taps into a genuine emotional well spring, heightened by an ebullient finish that should send audiences, again, humming the title track as they leave the theater.

The structure gives the established cast considerably less to do, but as noted, James' presence more than compensates for that. And as with the original, everyone looks to be having a grand time no matter how sizable the role is, which proves rather infectious.

Like its predecessor, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" isn't a great movie, but it's a warm, occasionally stirring dip back into the jukebox and carefree escape into its pristine waters. If that's not quite the same experience as singing and dancing along the way people did on Broadway, for the price of a movie ticket, it's more than enough, yes, to make it worth going again.

"Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" opens July 20 in the U.S. It's rated PG-13.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 45°
Columbus
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 52°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
43° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather