Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (4th November 2018).
The Film

A year after her mother Donna (A Cry in the Dark's Meryl Streep) dies, daughter Sophie (Mean Girls' Amanda Seyfried) is planning a grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna on the Greek isle of Kalokairi. Although her mother lived her entire life for her, Sophie's husband Sky (Miss You Already's Dominic Cooper) is not so sure it is healthy for her to do the same as he is in New York learning the hotel business and has just been offered an incredible job opportunity. Sophie has invited the three men who were her potential fathers who agreed to share "custody" of her, but only architect-turned-artist Sam (Goldeneye's Pierce Brosnan) can make it since he is already living on the island in a hilltop shack-cum-studio. Stuffy banker Harry (Apartment Zero's Colin Firth) is in Japan working on a business merger, and sailor Bill (Insomnia's Stellan Skarsgård) is accepting a lifetime achievement award. Her mother's school friends, and the other two thirds of her girl band The Dynamos, have arrived – oft-divorced Tanya (A Bad Moms Christmas's Christine Baranski) and forever unlucky in love Rosie (Billy Elliot's Julie Walters), but the memory of Donna overshadows their joy. As Sophie stresses over the details of the renovation and grand re-opening with the assistance of benevolent Senior Cienfuegos (Book Club's Andy Garcia), the film flashes back and forth between the present and the travels of young Donna (Baby Driver's Lily James) following her graduation including the separation from and reuniting with young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and young Rose (The Detectorists' Alexa Davies), meeting cute with young Harry (The Windsors' Hugh Skinner), young Bill (Josh Dylan), and then young Sam (Beyond the Reach's Jeremy Irvine) as she is drawn for reasons unknown to the island and wins over gruff bar owner Sofia (Tommy Boy's Maria Vacratsis) and her would be rocker son Lazaros (Panos Mouzourakis) with her good heart and her singing talent. When a torrential storm destroys the opening day preparations, no planes can land in Athens, and no ferries can come to the island, Sophie is about to lose all hope but there are others who come to realize the importance of family (again)… and then there's grandma (The Witches of Eastwick's Cher).

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again or Mamma Mia! Beating a Dead Horse, as writer/director Ol Parker (Imagine Me & You) pretty much treads over some of the same ground as Judy Craymer's setbound adaptation of her own Broadway musical. ABBA fans swallowed up the first film's contrived plotting in which development served mainly as bridges to performances of the group's hit songs and were not even insulted by the film's conclusion pretty much dropping the question of fatherhood so as to let each share of the audience idealize Firth, Brosnan, or Skarsgaard as "the one." As Parker's sequel flashes back, we really learn nothing new about any of the men or what Donna felt for any of them other than it being intense – young Sam may bet a bit more emphasis, but once again, the film seems to not want to show favoritism to any of them lest Skinner, Dylan, and Irvine become new objects of audience adoration – while the present day scenes fill as much like filler as the flashbacks. Brosnan, Firth, and Skarsgaard play themselves while Baranski is playing every divorcee character she has played since her tenure on Cybill while Waters pulls the female equivalent of Colin Firth-y/Hugh Grant-y romantic comedy perpetual befuddlement. Seyfried is better than James at going through the musical motions of "I'm-happy-sing-sing-sing-everything's-hopeless-sing-sing-sing-I'm-happy-again-sing-sing-sing" but Cooper is underused. The young men fare worst of all since their performances must embody impressions of their older counterparts – Irvine is both amusing and dead-on in his Brosnan-esque delivery – while their key moments are performances of the B-side of ABBA's hit singles: Donna meets Harry in Paris so he proclaims his love for her by singing "Waterloo", Donna and Bill fall in love on his boat so they sing "SOS", while Donna and Sam romp around the island singing "Knowing Me, Knowing You." The opening number has Donna and the Dynamos shaking up graduation by singing "When I Kissed the Teacher" which is supposed to be a high energy number but is only really worth seeing for the chance to see Celia Imrie's headmistress singing. "Mamma Mia" is reprised from the first film as Donna and the Dynamo's act in a Greek bar, and "Super Trouper" under the ten minutes of end credits; however, most nauseating is the large scale reprise of "Dancing Queen" with Skarsgaard and Firth rocking it out with hundreds of extras on the decks of fishing boats. The true low-point, however, is Cher belting out "Fernando" as the punchline to the lamest joke with the longest setup ever. While Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has probably already made its money back from the converted, one wonders if it would have been nearly as successful had it also started out as a Broadway musical.

Video

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was photographed with Arri Alexa cameras and Zeiss lenses, and the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen Blu-ray presentation is as gorgeous as one would expect form a studio product and a Universal Blu-ray of a recent production. The sometimes literal picture postcard scenery stuns at first in scope before motion controlled or drone aerial work draws the viewer into the depth of the compositions. The lighting of the soundstage sets and the natural light of the location work is seamless apart from one studio lightning flash which is far less convincing than the CGI augmentation of the rest of the storm in the background. Textures of the scenery, costumes, hair, and facial features (barring Botox-ed Cher) are also brought into high relief. The same is likely truer of the UltraHD/Blu-ray combo edition released concurrently.

Audio

The primary audio option is a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD core) track which sound incredible even audited in 5.1. The sound design is mainly expansive rather than directional during the musical numbers but the background atmosphere during the dialogue scenes stays busy without drawing attention away from the banal dialogues. The surrounds really come to life in a handful of scenes like the storms while the music is likely to distract all but the most attentive viewers from the other effects and their placement during the song numbers. French and Spanish dubs are also included in Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 while an English Descriptive Audio track is included in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included, along with animated sing-along subtitles for the songs in those languages.

Extras

Unlike most UltraHD combos, Universal's edition features identical extras content on both 4K and Blu-ray discs while the DVD that accompanies this Blu-ray/DVD combo pairs down the extras from the other editions. The audio commentary by director/writer Ol Parker is a rather subdued affair with the soft-spoken director discussing the challenges of crafting a sequel to a musical that already had a happy ending, how he was unsure how some of his visual ideas could be achieved – and crediting the effects team with helping him realize many of the film's stunning transitions – some of the usual comments about conveying the depth of his cardboard characters, the structure of the film, and roles he wrote with specific actors (like Skinner and Imrie) in mind. In the audio commentary by producer Judy Craymer, she reveals that the idea for the sequel came from producer Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) with the Godfather Part II structure of moving back and forth between past and present, Parker's script and handing over direction to him, Björn Ulvaeus's involvement including his cameo (Benny Andersson also has a less prominent cameo), as well as the gender reversal in "When I Kissed the Teacher". Parker also provides optional commentary to two deleted songs and two extended versions of ones in the finished film. "High Jinks" (1:09) is not a blooper reel so much as a montage of actors clowning around to "Waterloo" while the enhanced sing-alongs (46:37) playback option dispenses with the expository scenes entirely.

In "The Story" (5:33), Craymer and company discuss the idea of the "jukebox musical", the success of the original Broadway musical, and the importance of involving Ulvaeus in approval of the sequel concept. "Mamma Mia! Reunited" (3:33) consists of talking heads of the actors and their excitement to be back together after five years while "Playing Donna" (2:28) and "Sophie's Story" (3:30) are more focused on the actors and their respective roles. In "Meeting Cher" (3:43), Parker and company discuss her casting and having no contingency plan to replace her in the role if she were to turn it down. "Costumes and the Dynamos" (4:59) profiles costume designer Michele Clapton (Game of Thrones) and her designs for the seventies era part of the story. In "Choreographing Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again" (7:25), choreographer Anthony Van Laast (Excalibur) contrasts the two films in that Mamma Mia! remained faithful to the Broadway choreography while he was allowed to invent from scratch for the sequel. The "Cast Meets Cast" include Baranski and Wynn discussing their roles and admiration of one another, ditto for Walters and Davies, while the "Curtain Call" (3:59) looks at the "Super Trouper" sequence and Brosnan's visible embarrassment his dancing and singing. In "Dancing Queen: Anatomy of a Scene" (3:26), Van Laast and cinematographer Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel) discuss the complexities of staging the sequel's "Dancing Queen" sequence on the water. Also included are more talking heads in the "Cast Chats" featurettes "Dynamo Chit-Chat" (2:42) and "Dad Chat" (2:19), while "Performing for Legends" (2:46) finds the young Dynamos reflecting on singing "When I Kissed the Teacher" for Ulvaeus in the studio. "Class of '79" (3:48) briefly discusses casting the young equivalents of the first film's characters and the challenges of emulating them (with Irvine doing more Brosnan impressions). Lastly, the disc includes a "Today Interview with Cher and Judy Craymer" (4:35) with Kathie Lee Gifford managing to look even more embalmed (or pickled) than Cher.

Overall

While Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has probably already made its money back from the converted, one wonders if it would have been nearly as successful had it also started out as a Broadway musical.

 


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