“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” the sequel/prequel to “Mamma Mia!” offers the perfect follow-on to the older movie and Broadway production, takes us back to 1979 when free-spirited Donna finds love – multiple times – and embarks on a wonderful adventure on a Greek island. The musical is pure innocence and fun, with Donna’s girl-band, “Donna and the Dynamos,” taking us back into the wonderful world of the 1970s when men wore purple velour sport coats with open collars, and everyone wore shoes with four-inch heels.
You’ll leave the theater with a spring in your step and a smile on your face. You know you’re going to watch it at least three or four more times. You’ll never admit this to anyone, but you’ll be singing “Dancing Queen” in the shower every day for the next week. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
It’s not the sort of movie that will inspire scholarly discussions in California film school seminars, and it doesn’t pretend to be. For those of us Baby Boomers who lived through the ’70s and came out the other side with a closet full of bell-bottom trousers and brightly-colored polyester, the film resonates in that deep corner of our mind where we’re all still 17 years old and full of hope and face the future with a fearlessness that only a 17-year-old can know. Younger viewers may make fun of the fashion choices of the period, but they will still enjoy the show and relate to the sense of adventure exhibited both by ’70s Donna, and by present-day Sophie.
In the flashback scenes with a younger ’70s Donna, the costumes were amazing and true to the period. The shoes! What can I say? In the ’70s I had a pair of red, white and blue platform shoes with four-inch heels, which in 1978 were, remarkably, an acceptable fashion choice for a young man. The show really took me back.
The music of ABBA was beautifully rendered and almost made me want to get up in the aisle and dance. But only the most hard-core ABBA fans will recognize all of the tunes, which included many B-side, lesser-known songs from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Thankfully, the very talented Pierce Brosnan didn’t sing any solos. Cher, as Sophie’s grandmother, was a delightful addition, and I can’t think of anybody else who would fit the role better. She’s almost unrecognizable at first in her platinum blond hair, but once she starts singing there’s no doubt, and her voice is as strong as ever. The incredible finale is worth the wait, as Grandma (Cher) rekindles her long-lost love with Fernando Cienfuegos, played by Andy Garcia. In this movie, nobody gets left alone.
I haven’t had this much fun in a movie theater since I saw Grease for the first time in ’78, sitting in the back row with my high school sweetheart and, as young Donna would have written oh-so-subtly in her diary, “dot dot dot.”
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.