Mamma Mia! 1 & 2
Mamma Mia! (February 6/09)
Based on the popular stage musical, Mamma Mia! follows a young woman (Amanda Seyfried's Sophie) as she invites three men (Pierce Brosnan's Sam, Colin Firth's Harry, and Stellan Skarsgard's Bill) to her Greek-island wedding after learning that one of them might be her father - much to the chagrin of her quirky, free-spirited mother (Meryl Streep's Donna). It's an awfully thin premise that's used as a springboard for a myriad of ABBA-inspired musical numbers, which effectively ensures that the film ultimately works only in fits and starts - as certain sequences are inherently far more affecting and engaging than others. The enthusiastic performances go a long way towards holding one's interest through the periodic lulls, however, as Streep and her various costars attack their respective roles with an ebullient gusto that's generally impossible to resist. Phyllida Lloyd's competent yet bland directorial choices ensure that the film is never quite able to transcend its stage origins, although - to be fair - the stunning scenery does prove effective at compensating for the less-than-enthralling camerawork. And while it's hard to deny that the movie hits something of a lull as it passes the one-hour mark, Mamma Mia! benefits substantially from the inclusion of a rousing and energetic finale that essentially guarantees that the whole thing concludes on as "up" a note as one could possibly envision.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
A perfectly agreeable (if somewhat overlong) sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again follows Amanda Seyfried's Sophie as she prepares to open a Greek restaurant and hotel on the one-year anniversary of her mother's (Meryl Streep's Donna) passing - with the narrative also detailing the 1979-set exploits of a young Donna (Lily James) and her relationships with three very different men. Filmmaker Ol Parker has infused Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again with an irresistibly lighthearted sensibility that's predominantly reflected in its affable performances and toe-tapping musical numbers, with Seyfried's engaging performance certainly matched (if not topped) by James' winning, star-making turn as the younger version of Streep's almost iconic character. (It's clear, too, that the movie benefits substantially from the strong work of its supporting cast, which includes Dominic Cooper, Andy Garcia, Pierce Brosnan, and Christine Baranski.) It's equally apparent, however, that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again does suffer from a somewhat erratically-paced midsection, as the near two-hour running time proves far too substantial for a pleasant yet awfully slight narrative (ie the picture, which also suffers from two endings too many, could've used some judicious cuts, ultimately). Such concerns are rendered moot by the uplifting, feel-good finale, to be sure, and it's ultimately impossible to label Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as anything less than a pervasively charming followup that fares even better than its likable predecessor.