Cher. Cher and more Cher. The highlight of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is Cher, the great pop diva and off the cuff Twitter political activist. But hey did you expect it wouldn’t be? And diva Cher doesn’t even make her grand entrance till the end of the film. Throw in the ever-adorable Meryl Streep, playing the now deceased Donna, and you get an energetic, entertaining film that finds its kitschy, campy footing in the second half. Directed and written by Ol Parker, the film knows exactly what it wants to be and doesn’t strive for anything more.
The first hour is slower. Even though Lily James of “Downton Abbey” fame (playing a young Donna) is game and talented, there are too many ABBA songs that are not recognizable and sing-along-able, which slows the energy down a bit. When the seasoned veterans — Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan — all take the stage, well that’s when the fireworks literally begin. And they are all just delicious, funny and get every move, quip, glance and moment right.
The saga takes place in flashback; at the beginning it shows a deceased Donna (Meryl Streep) with her loyal beloved daughter, Sophie (an always terrific Amanda Seyfried,) mourning her. Sophie just built a new hotel on the idyllic Greek island to honor her mother, which will be managed by an older hunk Fernando (Andy Garcia). One of her three dads, Sam (Pierce Brosnan) is on the island. Her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper) is away on business. So when an unexpected storm ruins all the plans, the story begins.
Cut to the young Donna’s original journey to this island that will eventually be her forever home. The film recounts the plot of the first movie and now delicately deals with how hippie-like Donna slept with three men in quick succession hence the whole premise of “Mamma Mia” i.e. Who is the father of her baby (Sophie)? Will we ever find out? (Maybe not because the ABBA catalog is now exhausted.)
And yes, our Cher, Oscar winner who still dabbles in film, playing Donna’s colorful mother, makes her grand entrance and does the most sublime version of “Fernando” you will ever see. She’s the grandest “Mamma” of them all.
Universal’s ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens July 20th.