By RANDAL C. HILL
The rarest (and financially riskiest) of all film genres? That would have to be the live-action musical sequel. But the gamble didn’t stop Universal Pictures from recently green-lighting Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, which opens July 20th – 10 years to the month from the original movie release date. Back in 2008, the surprise megahit earned Universal a whopping $609 million on a budget of $28 million.
Given those numbers, how could there not be a sequel?
Written and directed this time by Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), the original story picks up 10 years later on the Greek island of Kalokairi. Sophie
(Amanda Seyfried) is pregnant from her fiancé Sky and running Donna’s villa. Now 30, she wants to find out about her mom’s wild youth, how she ran the hotel,
met each of Sophie’s three potential fathers and raised a child, all without help.
Flashbacks return us to 1979. Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) is seen as the younger Donna. The maybe-dads Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) appear as younger versions of themselves
in portrayals by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan, respectively.
The sequel’s biggest surprise would have to be Cher in her first movie role since 2010. Barely recognizable in blonde hair and shades, she’s cast as Amanda – Donna’s mother and Sophie’s grandmother. What is unclear at the time of this printing, is how prominently Meryl Streep will appear in the new film, if at all. Trailers only show her in clips from the first film and characters refer to her in the past tense. Fans are raging about Donna’s possible “death” on the internet
Some would argue that the real star of the musical franchise is actually Abba, the now-disbanded Swedish super group whose pop masterpieces drive the
soundtracks. Many iconic singles (Mama Mia, Dancing Queen, Waterloo) from the first film will figure in July’s release, as well as some previously omitted Abba gems such as Angel Eyes and I Wonder (Departure). Abba is scheduled to reunite this December for a TV special that will debut a new song.
Did somebody just say “three-quel”?
And will this guilty pleasure garner the numerous tepid and caustic reviews just as the original featherweight movie did a decade ago? Film critic Tim Robey, who originally trashed Mama Mia! as “a total shambles,” later admitted, “I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll go see it again anyway.”
On July 20th we’ll find out.