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story.lead_photo.caption Tanya (Christine Baranski), Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Rosie (Julie Walters) return to the Greek island of Kalokairi in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Director Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) is like a pirate who follows a treasure map only to discover that other privateers have made off with most of the loot.

While the Swedish pop quartet ABBA recorded dozens of hits from 1972 to 1982, the cream of those were featured in the successful stage musical Mamma Mia! and its uneven 2008 film adaptation. Parker has the unenviable task of trying to build a new story around a play buoyed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' catchy melodies.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

77 Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Cher, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irvine, Andy Garcia, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Celia Imrie, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies

Director: Ol Parker

Rating: PG-13, for some suggestive material

Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

The original tale was unabashedly an excuse to tie together songs Andersson, Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson wrote decades before. Catherine Johnson's original tale wasn't burdened with complicated subplots or multidimensional characters, but when you have more than 20 hits to choose from that's not a huge problem.

It's a little harder to build a worthy follow-up. It's even harder when most of the film simply visualizes developments that were merely discussed earlier. It's almost as if Parker thought the audience had memory loss. At times, I wished I did.

It's slow going between the B-sides, and Anne Dudley's incidental music throws in the familiar melodies as if viewers have forgotten Andersson and Ulvaeus have written better selections.

Parker starts the film by killing off hotelier Donna (Meryl Streep) and following her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she tries to renovate and reopen her mother's old Greek resort.

Death doesn't stop Streep from wailing a song or two, but the movie doesn't find much to take her place. Trying to figure out which of her former beaus -- Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), Harry (Colin Firth) or Sam (Pierce Brosnan) -- fathered Sophie promised a little suspense in the first movie.

Having them meet her as a young woman (Lily James) is a long, slow haul between songs. Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner play the younger versions of Sam, Bill and Harry. Thankfully, they all sing more ably than Brosnan, who still croons a bit here. This time around sound crew does a better job of hiding the older thespian's vocal limitations, but the younger actors do little more than show off decent dance moves and sculpted physiques.

Parker comes up with some creative direct cuts that tie Sophie's current situation with Donna's youthful flings.

Sadly, his imagination seems to be depleted after that.

It's almost as if Andersson and Ulvaeus forced Parker to figure out how to fit "Waterloo" and "I Kissed the Teacher" into the movie as a dare.

Cher has taken a break from Vegas and makes a brief appearance as Sophie's estranged grandmother. Her brief appearance gives the movie an energy it desperately needs in the earlier sections. Like most of the other characters, she finds love on the remote Greek island, but Parker practically broadcasts who her suitor will be. If the man were to sport a ball cap that reads, "Cher's Boytoy," it would have been more subtle.

The returning cast members do their best to look committed, but Parker doesn't give them much to do. While Andy Garcia is a welcome addition, all Parker asks him to do is be suave. (He's a capable percussionist, so you'd think Parker would ask him to break out the bongos.)

Actually, if you and some friends decided to put on an all ABBA karaoke show after a night of heavy drinking, the results might sound better than the first film and entertain more thoroughly than the second one.

Ruby (Cher) surprises her granddaughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) in Ol Parker’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Young Harry (Hugh Skinner) and Young Donna (Lily James) star in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a prequel/sequel to the 2008 musical inspired by ABBA songs.

MovieStyle on 07/20/2018

Print Headline: Waterloo!

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