The Dancing Queens Return

Rating: 4

By Jason Solomons

Here we go again, indeed – the new title for this follow-up is practically suggesting how one must grit one’s teeth into the rictus of forced jollity needed to endure/enjoy the sheer froth of a second jaunt into the world of ABBA songs on a Greek island in the company of people about whom one doesn’t really give even half a hoot.

The plot device to get everyone back together is that Amanda Seyfried has built a hotel, the Bella Donna, in honour of her deceased Mum (Meryl Streep clearly didn’t want to go again), and she’s throwing a Grand Opening party, to which everyone from the last film is invited, plus a few special guests.

Into this, writers Ol Parker and Richard Curtis have rather smartly woven a flashback narrative, following the young Donna (played with a winning, toothy, honey-glowing summery attractiveness by Lily James) and her heady few days in 1979 getting from Oxford to the Greek island, via Paris (cue Waterloo, sung in a Napoleon-themed restaurant, complete with baguettes for sax solos), and some sail boats.

Not that we make any moral judgements, but she does sleep with three different blokes in a few days, and that’s how we never know who is the real Dad out of Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård or Pierce Brosnan, whose dashing younger incarnations we meet.

I must say, the casting and seamless time- toggling is the best thing about the film – all the young actors look and sound like the people they grow up to become. And I admired the witty choreography, bringing out nuances in the songs and lyrics, boosting the story as it skips back and forth, cramming in a great deal of backstory and tangential singing into a very economical run time of under two hours. Parker, who alsodirects, deserves great credit for this. Of course it’s whimsical, summery nonsense, but it never pretends to be anything else and all performers commit to it with gusto. I can’t say the first film left me wanting more, but given that it’s a ride I’m being forced to take anyway, there’s no point in grumping from the sidelines and hurling critical clichés at the shimmering blue canvas.

No. One must give oneself over to it, like a Club Med holiday, and enjoy the cheesiness (feta, of course) – to the point where you’re so giddy with silliness that you find Cher and Andy Garcia singing Fernando a blast of comic genius, or have to check yourself tapping along to Name of the Game, or suddenly realising you know all the words to One of Us, even as Dominic Cooper’s rendition tries to put the song out of its misery forever.

What can I say? you’ll love Mamma Mia! – and that’s an order.

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