In 2008 I fell in love with everything about Mama Mia! The Movie, the jukebox musical romantic comedy based on the 1999 musical.

The screenplay was written by British playwright, Catherine Johnson and featured an eye-watering cast list of supremely talented actors to play the wonderfully identifiable characters.  All wrapped up in the music of the iconic ABBA, with Benny playing the piano during Dancing Queen sequence and Björn popping up as a Greek god.  What was there not to like?   But the critics always find something and in Mama Mia! The Movie it was Pierce Brosnan’s singing voice, comparing it to a water buffalo, a wounded raccoon and even a braying donkey.

What about Russell Crowe’s singing voice in Les Mis? Surely that was worse?  Celeste Headlee described it as ‘It was as if a foghorn had started blowing in the middle of a Sousa march and was as distracting as the cowbell in that classic Saturday Night Live skit.’

Then there was a corker of a comment from Bob Chipman of Escape to the Movies who described Mama Mia! The Movie as “so base, so shallow and so hinged on meaningless spectacle, it’s amazing it wasn’t made for men”.  Whaaat?  Some of our best-loved actors singing and dancing their way around the idyllic Greek Island of Skopelos having a great time and you called it base and shallow?

Then why did Mama Mia! The Movie become the highest grossing live-action musical of all time until it was surpassed by Bill Condon‘s Beauty and the Beast last year?  It had a quintessentially feel-good factor about it, driven by ABBA’s immortal songs who, as of 2018, have purportedly sold 385m records.

Come on! Am I the only person who has fantasied about being Donna Sheridan?   Clearly, from my own post-academia diary entries, I had a very different summer.

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When I first heard Mama Mia!  Here We Go Again was in production, I was skeptical.  I wondered how they could possibly recreate the magic of the 2008 production.  I deliberately avoided the spoilers, but I couldn’t escape the rumours… was Meryl Streep going to be in it, or not?  You can’t do a sequel to Mama Mia! without Donna Sheridan.

Well, this is the movies and of course, you can… if you cast Lily James as the young Donna.  I didn’t think it could get any better the second time around, but it did and it’s brilliant.   I laughed until I cried, I wept into my popcorn, I sang along feeling like I was in the chorus and I loved every minute of it… along with everybody else in Cineworld, Jersey.

I loved the banter and one-liners in 2008 and screenwriter and director Ol Parker has bought out the best of the story Mama Mia!  Here We Go Again written by Catherine Johnson and Executive Producer Richard Curtis.

It was so good to see the fantastic original cast back again… OK… maybe it did lack a little Streep and that part of the storyline could have been explained better.  My only criticism. But… hey… you get the Goddess of Pop herself thrown into the mix this time around, to soften the blow from the lack of Streep maybe?  As well as getting to know and love the original cast all over again, along with their younger selves, who were all brilliantly cast.   And Omid Djalili as the Greek Customs Officer… comedic genius.

And to ABBA… thank you for the music.  Your seemingly immortal songwriting brilliance is now being passed on to new generations who have grown to love your music through the feelgood factor of movies like Mama Mia! The Movie and Here We Go Again.