And the critical darling of the summer is … “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”? This sequel comes 10 years after the original “Mamma Mia!” film, which itself was adapted from the 1999 jukebox musical that brought the songs of ABBA to the Broadway stage. No, it’s not a movie we’re likely to be talking about in the year-end awards conversation — except perhaps the Golden Globes, which adore musicals. But it does seem to have caught critics off-guard by actually improving on the original.
The 2008 “Mamma Mia!” was a huge hit, grossing $144 million domestically and a whopping $609 million worldwide against a mere $52 million budget. And it earned Golden Globe noms for Best Film Comedy/Musical and Best Film Comedy/Musical Actress (Meryl Streep). But it didn’t win over critics: it scored 51 on MetaCritic and had a rotten Tomatometer score of 54%.
Compare that to “Here We Go Again,” which as of this writing has 61 on MetaCritic and a 77% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Where the original was directed by Phyllida Lloyd (who would go on to direct Streep to her third Oscar in “The Iron Lady”), this followup stars Cher and is helmed by Ol Parker in only his third effort as a feature filmmaker following the romances “Imagine Me and You” (2005) and “Now is Good” (2012). He’s also known for writing “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011) and its sequel “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015).
Critics say Parker’s “Mamma Mia!” is “far more grounded” than its predecessor and “so unexpectedly enchanting that it plays less like a rehash than a reclamation.” Or as one writer puts it, “it’s oddly better this time around.” Are you just as excited for this ABBA-soaked sequel? Check out some of the reviews below and join the discussion on this and more going on in our forums.
Katie Walsh (Chicago Tribune): “In Parker’s hands, the sequel is far more grounded and melodramatic, lacking some of the rambunctious pop and fizz Lloyd brought to ‘Mamma Mia,’ the cinematic equivalent of trucker speed … Much like its predecessor, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is escapist fluff of the highest order — joyful, filled with beloved pop songs and incredibly bizarre. Go ahead and treat yourself to this raucous seaside summer confection, you deserve it.”
Justin Chang (Los Angeles Times): “Everything old is shockingly, stirringly new again in ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,’ the rare sequel so unexpectedly enchanting that it plays less like a rehash than a reclamation … A touch of magic might be the only plausible explanation for how 2008’s ‘Mamma Mia!,’ one of the most excruciating live-action movie musicals of the past decade, could have spawned one of the loveliest.”
Lindsey Bahr (Associated Press): “‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a wholly ridiculous movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s the kind of movie that feels and sounds like a summer vacation should: Fizzy, lively, low-stakes and soundtracked by ABBA … Like an all-inclusive resort, it might be a little cheesy and there is surely some cooler and more authentic option out there with less green screen and more character development, but easy can be its own kind of fun.”
Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times): “It’s the same sunny, hummy territory as the 2008 original, but it’s oddly better this time around; credit writer/director Ol Parker, and the way that a familiar recipe often improves after you’ve made it a few times … ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: sweet, silly, sun-splashed absurdity, with a thumping disco beat.”