Alas sometimes these super sequel troopers leave you feeling like a number two. Ol Parker’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (C+) has a lot working against it: soundtrack of ABBA B-sides as opposed to the first film’s greatest hits, a largely missing Meryl Streep (whose credibility helped elevate the preceding film to its guilty pleasure status) and the lack of the musical whodunit propelling the original’s narrative. Still, many of the songs soar with giddy delight (“Waterloo,” “Angel Eyes and “I’ve Been Waiting for You” are favorites), and it’s fun to see the assorted cast of characters cavorting on a lovely Greek Island once more. Lacking a consistent or cogent new plot, Parker goes full Godfather II with flashbacks to Streep’s younger self lovingly played by Lily James. She’s good, but neither she nor present-day Amanda Seyfried can quite heed the script’s S.O.S. It’s all rather obligatory but watchable, and both a spry director and a game ensemble give their all with the paltry lot they’ve got. Thank you for the music; no thank you for the cash grab.
Phyllida Lloyd’s film adaptation of her theatrical hit Mamma Mia! (B) is largely a joyful confection, taking its cues from the music catalogue of Swedish hitmakers ABBA to playfully chronicle how the plucky young female descendant of a 1979 “dancing queen” cavorting with three summer boyfriends on an exotic Greek isle endeavors to discover the identity of a dad to walk her down the wedding aisle. Central to the charm of the film is the relationship between Meryl Streep as the mom and Amanda Seyfried as her inquisitive offspring; each has a natural warmth and pleasant singing voice. Some of the supporting subplots and singers (ahem, Pierce Brosnan) are a bit atonal or adrift. The musical numbers are lovely and limber, and the locale adds enchantment to the affair, as if something vaguely mythological is afoot. It’s a rom com within a rom com with karaoke moments to punctuate every Big Emotion. It’s frisky, fun and recommended.