“Mama Mia! Here We Go Again”
RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2018
MPAA RATING: PG-13 (for some suggestive material)

It was bound to happen. What is less clear is why it took ten years after the release of the original “Mama Mia!” film (which grossed some $600 million worldwide) for its sequel to find the light of a theatrical projection system.

“Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” centers on the life and times of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she juggles pregnancy and the re-launch of a hotel on a Greek island, all while mourning the death of her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep).

Director and screenwriter Ol Parke has managed to reunite the original cast from the 2008 film “Mama Mia!” (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski), while providing a significant dose of young talent portraying the younger versions of the characters as the film bounces back and forth in time and place. Standout among the newer actors is Lily James as young Donna, who has the unenviable task of taking on the persona of a younger Streep (who makes a cameo appearance in an emotionally structured scene near the film’s conclusion). The vocal range of Ms. James may not be as solid as Seyfried’s, but the screen really comes to life each time she appears.

The biggest disappointment was the appearance of Cher as Sophie’s grandmother. Looking more like Lady Gaga than Cher, her character – and that of Fernando (Andy Garcia) — add nothing to the story and, in some ways, distract from it.

The big musical numbers are catchy and fun, and fans of ABBA will not be disappointed, although many of the songs will be unfamiliar to much of the audience. The opening night screening I attended was met with applause from those in attendance, filmgoers who apparently received exactly what they were expecting.